Saturday, December 7, 2013
In death, Mandela pulls a joke on world leaders
an outpouring of uncommon tributes from hitherto known friends,
foes, dissidents, antagonists, protagonists and perhaps loners
speaking with one voice. But that is one of the many surprising
ironies of life, international diplomacy and gesture.
While these could be regarded as the ironic reality of Nelson
Mandela's demise, it vividly captures the sheer hypocrisy which
global leaders use in achieving political objectives.
However, looked at from whichever prism, the uncommon tributes pouring
in from global leaders following the exit of the former South African
President are uncommon and can only come once in life time.
The development appears to have cast a pall on the acclaimed ideology
of these leaders, who, before now, were known to have largely acted
and are acting in breach of the ideals that Mandela lived for and
In fact, the striking aspects of Mandela's political legacy, which are
non-violent revolution and peaceful resistance, reconciliation,
selfless leadership, do not seem to matter to some of these leaders.
That is why the tributes are being dismissed in some quarters as
coming from those, who are hardly on the same page with Madiba,
particularly on issues that relate to global peace.
And these unusual tributes and dirges speak volumes about the matter:
President Assad of Syria, who is currently fighting a revolt against
his rule, said Nelson Mandela's life was an inspiration to freedom
fighters and a lesson to tyrants.
If there was any joke regarding the barrage of condolence messages, it
is the one sent by Assad of Syria. For a ruler who has virtually
destroyed his own country because he is waging a war against those he
termed terrorists, the joke is on him. Inspiration and lesson! May
be Assad sent out the wrong condolence message.
US. President Barack Obama
"Mandela no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages.
"Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us," Obama said.
"His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that
human beings — and countries — can change for the better.
"The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what
human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not their
fears," Obama further said. "I cannot fully imagine my own life
without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I
will do what I can to learn from him." Obama's tribute is
understandable. At least he claims that the man shaped his political
career and the American President does not appear to be doing a bad
A cross-section of the Chinese society, from the ruling Communist
Party's leadership cadre to scholars and activists pushing for
political change, also mourned the passing of Mandela, triggering
debates and difficult questions. The country's Vice President, Li
Yuanchao, on Friday, went to the South African Embassy in Beijing to
mourn the death of the country's former president.
Li stood in silent tribute in front of a bust of Mandela and signed a
book of condolences.
Li said Mandela spent all his life advocating and implementing racial
equality and reconciliation. He not only was a hero in the heart of
South Africans, but also won global recognition, Li added.
Stressing that Mandela had made great contributions to the
establishment and development of friendly cooperation between China
and South Africa, Li said his unfortunate death had led Chinese people
to lose a close friend.
He expressed deep condolences on behalf of the Chinese government and
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said, on Friday, that a Chinese
leader will attend the ceremonies arranged by South Africa to mourn
the passing of Mandela.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have sent messages
of condolence to South African President Jacob Zuma to express their
But the question on many lips remain: Does China or its leaders have
anything in common with the ideals of Mandela?
Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened" to learn of Mr
Mandela's death, describing him as one of the towering figures of the
20th century who inspired young and old with his fight for equality.
Meanwhile, she was on the throne while the apartheid regime got
endorsements from the Crown for decades.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron: "One of the brightest lights of our
world has gone out"
Pope Francis said Mr Mandela had forged "a new South Africa built on
the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth". A
good man speaketh!
Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "Mandela, having gone through
the most difficult ordeals, was committed to the end of his days to
the ideals of humanism and justice."
Pray, was Putin addressing the Russian people or was he performing a
ritual and a hollow, very hollow one at that. Would it not have been
more honourable if Putin had added something like: "And from this day,
I, as the Russian leader, would imbibe and act the ideals of the late
French President Francois Hollande said Mr Mandela's message would
"continue to inspire fighters for freedom and to give confidence to
peoples in the defence of just causes and universal rights".
Ban Ki-moon: "Let us continue each day to be inspired by Nelson
Mandela's lifelong example"?
Germany's Angela Merkel said Mr Mandela's "political legacy of
non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism" would
continue to inspire.
Ghana's President John Mahama told the BBC Mr Mandela was the greatest
African who ever lived.
Senegalese President Macky Sall said "Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly
the most influential man of the century", a "role model for Africans
and also for humanity". He said Mr Mandela gave Africans "pride in
being black – a dignity in being a black man".
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta praised him for living "an
extraordinary life in a very ordinary way. His legacy encrypts the
story of humanity now and tomorrow." For a man whose case at the
International Criminal Court is yet to be resolved it is indeed an
irony of "extraordinary" proportions that such a statement came from
President Goodluck Jonathan said Mandela was an "inspiration to the
oppressed peoples all over the world" and had made "unparalleled
One of Mandela's sacrifices was leaving the stage when the ovation was
loudest before the setting-in of the law of diminishing returns.
Africa needs leaders who would make more of the sacrifices.
Liberia's President and Nobel peace prize laureate Ellen Johnston
Sirleaf told the BBC that Mr Mandela was a constant inspiration and
would never be forgotten: "Nelson Mandela lives on as his life will
continue to be the guiding light for those who excel, for those who
have suffered for freedom and for peace." Even for a female
politician, the last election that brought her back to power and the
way the politics of it went cannot be said to be a "guiding light for
those" who want to excel in the once war-ravaged country.
Brazil's Dilma Rousseff said Mr Mandela would "guide all those who
fight for social justice and for peace in the world".
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro compared the death of Mr Mandela
to the passing of the late Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez: "Nine
months after the departure of our commander, today another giant of
the people leaves this world. Madiba you will live forever!" Perish
the thought. On what basis is Maduro comparing Chavez with Mandela?
His election to power was a product of debauchery.
Cuban leader Raul Castro said he was grateful for Mr Mandela's
friendship and steadfast support of the Cuban people.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: "This is as much India's
loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will
remain a source of eternal inspiration for The United Nations
Secreatry Genera, Mr. Ban Ki Moon described him as " a giant for
justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration".