Sabahi (Washington, DC)

6 December 2013

East Africa Pays Tribute to Legend Nelson Mandela

Mogadishu, Julius Kithuure in Nairobi and Deodatus Balile in Dar es Salaam — People across the East African region and the world are paying homage to Nelson Mandela, the revered icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and one of the most esteemed political

Mandela, aged 95, died Thursday (December 5th) at his Johannesburg home after battling a lung infection for months.

"The world has lost one of its greatest citizens," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said, calling Mandela "a voice of courage, a source of inspiration and a beloved leader to us all". Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Mandela "embodied the power of hope and believed in the power of forgiveness".

"He bequeathed us the understanding that we can and should unconditionally forgive those who wrong us," Kenyatta added. Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Mandela "impacted the lives of people in every corner of the world. All of Africa will mourn the loss of a true African hero, statesman and elder."

"He was an inspiration and beacon of hope to people across the globe who are fighting for justice and peace in the world," Mohamud continued. Mandela will be laid to rest in his ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape on December 15th after a week of national mourning.

Mandela, an example for Somali leaders:

Somali lawmaker Mohamed Omer Dalha has asked the Somali government to name an important public venue, government building or street in Mogadishu after Mandela to forever commemorate the crucial role he played in Africa's history.

"Nelson Mandela was a legendary man in his country and across the world," Dalha told Sabahi. "He facilitated genuine reconciliation among the people of South Africa without looking back at the dark history of that country," he said. "I would say, let us include his history and stories about Africa's hero, Nelson Mandela, in Somalia's schoolbooks."

Dalha said he would like Somalia's leaders to emulate Mandela in the gracious manner in which he handed over the presidency when he finished his term.

"In order for us to reach the level of development Nelson Mandela was able to realise for his country and his people, I would suggest that Somali leaders should stop loving power and become like Mandela," he said. "When his term in office was finished, he handed over his powers without adding a single day and instead opted to continue working for his people as a humanitarian worker."

Dalha, who is chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, sent his condolences to the entire population of South Africa.

"Mandela's death is a loss to the whole world and is not South Africa's loss alone," he said.

Jabril Ibrahim Abdulle, head of the Mogadishu-based Centre for Research and Dialogue, said what Mandela will be most remembered for is his sense of duty to his country and willingness to forgo personal interests for the advancement of his people.

"He committed his life for the good of the people of South Africa to his own detriment," he said, adding that if Somalia's leaders followed his example Somalia too would be able to reconcile and move on from its difficult past.

Inspiration for peaceful co-existence in Kenya:

"Kenya, like the rest of the world, joins in mourning the death of an adored statesman who brought peace, reconciliation and equality to South Africans," said Muriuki Njagagua, a member of Kenya's parliament representing Mbeere North Constituency. "[Mandela] was jailed for 27 years, and yet he had calmness in his heart to forgive his political tormentors."

"Mandela set a political example of what courage and self-belief can achieve in the face of adversity and persecution," Njagagua told Sabahi. "He had his eyes on the liberation goal and did not let his personal trauma and setbacks distract him from delivering an apartheid-free South Africa. I wish Kenyan politicians can learn from this fallen icon of apartheid struggle and inspire our country to great heights of peaceful co-existence."

"Mandela's legacy will outlive his death," said Bishop Nicolas Oloo of Zion Harvest Mission Church in Nairobi. "A man who had a magical effect through his tongue to heal a badly divided country after a long history of self-identity crisis is a phenomenon leader. I wish our political leaders, Kenyans in general and the polarised world could learn a few of the virtues which made Mandela a global leader and a respected statesman."

"When our African leaders use all means both legal and illegal to cling to power, Mandela rejected a second term even when he was such a popular figure who could easily have made it for a second term as South Africa president," Oloo told Sabahi. "Because of his wisdom and foresight, he knew when not to accept to be corrupted by absolute power."

"The world has lost one of the few remaining voices of reason; A man who could command respect from all corners of the globe regardless of the audience colour, race, and political-affiliation and religious belief is a deity deserving emulation by anybody who wants to achieve half of what Mandela achieved," Oloo said.

Leaving a legacy for leaders in Tanzania:

"[Mandela] was and remains to be a symbol of peace, freedom, unity and civilisation for all Africans and the world at large," said Deus Kibamba, executive director of the Tanzania Citizens' Information Bureau.

"Mandela has left a legacy which should be the path for our leaders to fight injustices in politics, economic disparity between developed and underdeveloped countries, and so on," Kibamba told Sabahi.

Mandela will be remembered as a peacemaker, said Andrew Mbega, a programme officer at Tanzania Media Women's Association.

"Despite the fact that he was locked in jail for 27 years, he was ready to forgive [former South African President Fredrick Willem] de Klerk and work with them," Mbega told Sabahi. "The Truth and Reconciliation Commission created a peaceful society that respects human rights contrary to the apartheid regime he fought."

Mandela's life in short:

Born in July 1918 in the south-eastern Transkei region, Mandela started his career as a lawyer in Johannesburg in parallel with his political activism.

He became commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation), the armed wing of the then-banned African National Congress (ANC), in 1961, and the following year underwent military training in Algeria and Ethiopia.

While underground back home in South Africa, Mandela was captured by police in 1962 and sentenced to five years in prison.

He was then charged with sabotage and sentenced in 1964 to life in prison at the Rivonia trial, named after a Johannesburg suburb where a number of ANC leaders were arrested.

He used the court hearing to deliver a speech that was to become the manifesto of the anti-apartheid movement.

"During my lifetime, I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society," he said.

"It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

Mandela spent 27 years behind bars before being freed in 1990 to lead the ANC in negotiations with the white minority rulers, which culminated in the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

A victorious Mandela served a single term as president before taking up a new role as a roving elder statesman and leading anti-AIDS campaigner before finally retiring from public life in 2004.

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