Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela, a Symbol of Freedom and Reconciliation, Dies at 95



Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

Photo courtesy: chicagonow.com

Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s former first-democratically-elected President, fighter for freedom, and anti-apartheid leader, died on the night of December 5 in Johannesburg after a long illness from lung infection. He was 95 years old. 

He will receive a state funeral  on December 15 after a week of national mourning. He will be buried at Qunu, his ancestral village in the Eastern Cape.

After 27 years of his imprisonment under the white-only apartheid (in South Africa, a policy or system of segregation or discrimination on the basis of race) regimes, he gained freedom in 19   and after a long negotiation the apartheid was ended and environment was created for the first democratic election.

In 1994, he was elected the first democratically-elected president of South Africa. He was president for one term that ended in 1999. Due to his powerful influence there was a reconciliation between the blacks and whites. 

Tributes from World Leaders

Upon his death, world leaders paid tribute to him in large numbers.
According to the Sky News, U.S. President Barack Obama said: “Today he [Nelson Mandela] has gone home and we have lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time on this Earth…He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages.”

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron said: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time: a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.”

South African President Jacob Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its greatest son.”
South Africa’s last white president F.W. de Klerk, who shared Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela in 1993, said: “[Mandela] was a great unifier…This emphasis on reconciliation was his greatest legacy.”

South Africa’s Anglican archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu said, “He was a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison.”

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: ““Nelson Mandela’s enduring legacy for his country, and the world, is the example he set through his own ‘long walk to freedom.’ With grace and humility, he modelled how peoples can transform their own times and in doing so, their own lives.”

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said: “History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion of human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity.”

According to the News.va, Pope Francis in a telegram sent his condolence to President Jacob Zuma and wrote: “I ask the Lord to console and strengthen all who mourn his loss. Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations.”

Nelson Mandela and East Pakistan (Bangladesh) Connection

Especially before 1972, Nelson Mandela’s struggle for freedom and long imprisonment struck a chord with a section of the students of the University of Dhaka and politicians in East Pakistan (later called Bangladesh). I still remember how some students demonstrated against the South African apartheid and demanded release of Nelson Mandela. There were posters of Mandela in different sections of the city, too. East Pakistani politician Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and some others, who always spoke for the rights and self-governing of the East Pakistanis, were imprisoned for long period of time, too, by the West Pakistani ruling elite, mostly influenced by the military leaders. 

The Appeal of Nelson Mandela Will Always Last 

As long as there will be discrimination, injustice, and enslavement in societies around the world, the example and lesson of Nelson Mandela will be present there. His appeal will always be there.

Resources on Nelson Mandela




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