The African Union (AU) has described the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, as a true revolutionary leader who assisted the development of Africa and other Third World countries.

An avowed communist, Castro (90), died last Friday after a long illness. He came to power by deposing United States-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, and ruled the Caribbean island nation until 2006, when he handed over power to his brother, Raul.

AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma said Tuesday that Castro supported national liberation and anti-colonial struggles and, after their independence, the development of national health systems in Africa.

“President Castro was a liberation icon, a true revolutionary and internationalist, who assisted in the liberation and socio economic development of Africa and the developing world”, she said.

Dhlamini-Zuma said Castro set an example, investing in his people, particularly in healthcare and education, as well as in other broader social policies.

“This was reflected in Cuban foreign policy, and the solidarity over the years with many African countries. He was consistent in the fight for the principle of equality amongst nations, reflected in the leading role he played in the Non-Aligned Movement,” she said.

She said Africa on the other hand had stood steadfast in its solidarity with Cuba, with numerous resolutions by the Organization of African Unity and its successor, the African Union, supporting the end to the United States economic blockade of the Caribbean nation.

Castro, whose body was cremated on Saturday, is expected to be buried on Dec 4 in the second Cuban city of Santiago.