Castro’s backing of some African leaders, however, alienated others. In 1977, Castro sent as many as 15,000 troops to back Mengistu Haile Mariam’s fight against Somalia. The Cuban involvement forced Somalia to cede control of the Ogaden region—a blow to an army that believed victory was in their grasp. Some Somalis are still bitter.

Castro’s commitment to Africa continued in post-liberation Africa. The country still trains African doctors, and continues to send doctors here. When Ebola ravaged Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Cuba lead international aid efforts when other world powers fretted. It is a relationship likely to continue long after Castro’s death.

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