12 April 2019

Africa: South Africa Honours Ugandan for Fight Against Apartheid

Kampala — South Africa has honoured its Ugandan-born citizen, Mr Amii Omara-Otunnu, for spearheading the fight against apartheid.

Mr Otunnu, who was recognised for his active engagement in South African affairs dating back to his student days at Harvard University, is among the few outstanding South African citizens and foreign nationals set to be bestowed with the National Orders on April 25.

The National Orders are the highest awards that South Africa bestows on its citizens and members of the international community who have contributed meaningfully towards making the country a free, democratic and successful nation.

Dr Cassius Lubisi, the chancellor of the National Orders, made the announcement. The six national orders are the Order of Mendi, Order of the Baobab, Order of Ikhamanga, Order Mapungubwe, Order of Luthuli and Order of the Companions of OR Tambo, which President Cyril Ramaphosa will bestow on recipients at a ceremony in Pretoria.

Mr Otunnu will be bestowed in the silver category jointly with Klaas de Jonge of the Netherlands, Khotso Makhulu (United Kingdom), Paulette Pierson-Mathy (Belgium), and Lucia Raadschelders (posthumous - The Netherlands).

Dr Lubisi unveiled the recipients "who have contributed to the struggle for democracy, nation-building and building democracy and human rights".

Other notable recipients are Environmental Affairs minister Edna Molewa, artiste Yvonne Chaka Chaka and veteran journalist Mathatha Tsedu. In an interview, Mr Otunnu said the award is an indication that the leadership in South Africa is conscious of the fact that Pan African solidarity contributed substantially to the success of the struggle against apartheid and progressive developments in post-apartheid South Africa.

In the late 1970s, as a student representative on Harvard's Shareholders Responsibility Committee, Mr Otunnu spearheaded a successful campaign for the university to divest from apartheid South Africa. As a graduate student leader both at the London School of Economics and Oxford University in the 1980s, he led campaigns for the release of Nelson Mandela from prison back home in South Africa.

"At the LSE, I nominated Nelson Mandela to be appointed chancellor of London University. This was a strategy to bring attention to Mandela's unjust imprisonment and to the human rights violation in apartheid South Africa," Mr Otunnu said.

After the election of Mandela as president of South Africa in 1994, Mr Otunnu established a partnership between the African National Congress (ANC) and the University of Connecticut. The partnership offered more than 15 scholarships to South African students and carried out a oral history project to document the struggle against apartheid.

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