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Archive for July 5th, 2017

Cuito Cuanavale: Fred Bridgland’s dramatic retelling of the war that transformed the continent

Cuito Canavale“As we advanced the tanks began firing ahead speculatively. It was an amazing sight. After an Olifant [tank] unleashed a 105 mm shell you saw a path opening up through the forest just like the Red Sea divided for Moses.”

It is September 1987. The Angolan Army – with the support of Cuban troops and Soviet advisors – has built up a massive force on the Lomba River near Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. Their goal? To capture Jamba, the headquarters of the rebel group Unita, supported by the South African Defence Force (SADF) in the so-called Border War.

In the battles that followed, and shortly thereafter centred around the small town of Cuito Cuanavale, 3 000 SADF soldiers and 8 000 Unita fighters were up against a much bigger Angolan and Cuban force of over 50 000 men.

Thousands of soldiers died in the vicious fighting that is described in vivid detail in this book. Bridgland pieced together this account through scores of interviews with SADF men who were on the front line. This dramatic retelling takes the reader to the heart of the action.
 
 
The final battles of the war in 1987 and 1988 had an impact far beyond the borders of Namibia and Angola. They not only spelled the end of the last great neo-colonial attempts at African conquest by Cuba and the former Soviet Union, but also made possible the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa.

Fred Bridgland is a veteran British foreign correspondent and author who covered the Angolan civil war and the Border War for Reuters as an Africa correspondent in the 1970s and then for the Sunday Telegraph and The Scotsman in the 1980s. In 1975 his discovery of South Africa’s secret US-engineered invasion of Angola uncovered the CIA’s involvement in the Angolan civil war, and was a world scoop. Bridgland has written a number of books and has just completed a biography of Winnie Mandela.

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