Nelson Mandela at times like this
Today (July 18) is Mandela Day, an International Day, to remember Mandela’s achievements in working towards conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, peace, and reconciliation. Nelson Mandela died at 95 in 2013. The first Mandela Day was launched in New York on July 18, 2009, but the UN’s resolution to declare the day occurred later that year. On November 10, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 18 as “Nelson Mandela International Day”.Nelson Mandela Day is a global observance of the the core values the late global icon stood for, namely democracy, freedom, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.
Nelson Mandela is certainly not a public holiday. On the contrary it is a Day people and organizations around the world take part in many activities to promote Nelson Mandela Day through activities that include volunteering, sport, art, education, music and culture. Various events are also held on or around July 18 to honor Nelson Mandela’s works and to promote the different projects that were inspired by Mandela’s achievements. Yesterday, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates delivered the 14th annual Nelson Mandela Foundation lecture in Pretoria on the eve of the former statesman and president’s birthday.
The lecture held at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi campus on Sunday, was “...dedicated to the many residents of the township who gave their lives in the struggle for liberation and democracy in South Africa. The theme for Gates’s lecture was “Living Together”. Gates reportedly said Nelson Mandela would be remembered for generations to come “for his courage, his vision, and his relentless pursuit of equality and justice”.
The Mandela Day aims at inspiring people to set aside some minutes to consciously do something that will help change the world or their environment for the better, and by so doing to become part of a global movement of people consciously aspiring to do good. Curiously while the rest of the world celebrates the Mandela Day, not much was heard from the Nigerian government about this legend whose country’s liberation (SA) was made possible with Nigeria’s frontline support from the 60s to 90s. It is refreshingly significant that the “Abuja Collective”, a group of comrades and residents of Abuja and its environs, who have been involved in the Southern African struggle and the campaign against Apartheid in collaboration with the South African High Commission are commemorating Mandela Day this year together with the 40th anniversary of the SOWETO massacre on June 16,1976.
To celebrate this year’s Mandela Day, many heroic acts of compassion and solidarity would definitely take place globally in line with the United Nations’ tradition; asking people to mark the day by devoting 67 minutes of their time to helping others – “one minute for each year Mandela spent fighting for his cause”. Nelson Mandela died three years ago, but score of many chanlleges he courageously and selflessly stood for still hunt humanity more than ever before. One is worsening global conflict.
Assuming Mandela, a great global peace maker, lives at times like this, what would be his attitude to the worsening global conflicts? Nelson Mandela died in 2013, the year the senseless war of attrition in South Sudan broke out. In December 2013, South Sudan Civil war eruptted as President Salva Kiir accused his ex-Vice-President, Riek Machar, of plotting to overthrow him. Since then almost a million people (mostly women and children) have been killed as rebel factions of varying persuasions clashed after each cease fire. It would be recalled that South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011 after decades long conflicts with Khartoum the north.
What would be Mandela’s reaction to endless blood letting in South Sudan and the seeming helplessness of the the Africa union, AU? Nelson Mandela undoubtedly left the world in conflicts with Cumulative fatalities in hundreds of thousands such as 1978 War in Afghanistan, 2003 Iraq War, Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger of 2009 and 2011 Syrian civil war. But since his death, Iraqi Civil War and the emergence of ISIS with combined air bombings by big powers have made bloodletting open ended with serial mass killings in the trail of terror attacks.
Global conflicts were not as protracted as this when in 2007, the late Nelson Mandela formed The Elders, an international non-governmental organisation of public figures, elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates to work on solutions for seemingly insurmountable problems such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, and poverty, as well as to “use their political independence to help resolve some of the world’s most intractable conflicts”. What then happens to Mandela’s initiative on global peace as our planet is imperiled by wars? Born on 18 July 1918 in the tiny village of Mvezo on the banks of the Mbashe River in the province of Transkei, ‘Rolihlahla’ (which in Mandela’s native Xhosa language literally means ‘pulling the branch of a tree’ or figuratively means ‘troublemaker’) was named Nelson by his teacher.
In 1942 he joined the African National Congress and for 20 years was involved in a campaign of peaceful, non-violent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. With the non-violent methods of the struggle doing little to convince the racist regime to repent from its evil ways and repeal its obnoxious policies, Mandela became increasingly radicalised and became a co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). He was arrested in 1962 and convicted of sabotage and other charges.
He served 27 years in prison, many of these in the notorious Robben Island. He was offered release several times on the condition that the ANC would renounce violence as an instrument of struggle. He declined the Greek gift on each occasion. Following his eventual release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to the establishment of democracy in South Africa in 1994, with himself as the first President of post-apartheid South Africa. As President, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa.