Nel­son Man­dela at times like this

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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