This year, Cuba and Ethiopia are celebrating the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship. Last week, the nation also marked the 31st anniversary of its citizens who perished while fighting in the Ogaden War. With images of the brave soldiers who fought with their Ethiopian counterparts, the day was remembered in the Tiglachin Monument in the presence of aging Ethiopian soldiers and Cuban and Ethiopian diplomats and high government officials.
‘Today, we celebrate the lives of the 163 Cuban fallen in Ethiopia while fulfilling their internationalist duty. The remains were buried in Cuba 31 years ago”, the Cuban Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Angel Villa Hdz said.
Ethiopia and Cuba have had an ongoing diplomatic relationship that started in 1975 at the beginning of the Derg era. There are hundreds of Ethiopians who have been given scholarships to study specifically in the areas of medicine and despite its own poverty and shortcomings, Cuba has scored as one of the nations with the most advanced and trained medical sector in the world.
The island nation has played a role in the liberation of most African nations while fighting an economic embargo sanctioned and supported by the United States. There is a small Ethiopian population within the nation made up of people who decided to stay on after completing their education, as well as orphans of Ethiopian soldiers who died during the Ogaden war.
The Tiglachin monument was erected during the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the era of the Derg in 1984 with the support of North Korea. There was much debate on the wisdom of the resources spent to build it as it occurred in the midst of the Ethiopian famine in which thousands perished while the then government focused on a self-congratulatory spending spree.
Ironically, the monument also highlights the era of Emperor Haile Selassie and its so-called imperialism agenda that ignored the poor, while protecting the elite. “Down with Imperialism” reads a sign and, on the side, shows the people power movement that ended the era of the last Ethiopian monarchy.
It also shows images of Colonel Mengistu Hailemariam and that of the Cuban soldiers and others.
Located beside the Black Lion Hospital, the monument was untouched even during the TPLF regime that toppled the Derg. Today, the site also serves as an open café, a public library and a rare green space for the public to enjoy.
The last Ethiopian head of State to visit Cuba was President Mulatu Teshome in 2018 and Cuba’s Vice President, Salvador Valdes Mesa paid a complementary visit the following year.