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The Mandela Example Versus African Dictators 

CameroonPostline.com — In their messages you could pick out words like statesman, a modest man, an icon of peace and humility, a good example, a man with a forgiving heart and so on. So, Tata Mandela was such a good example, and they knew it, but refused to emulate him?
 

Yes, Madiba was all of the above and more. Even after being imprisoned for 27 years, he came out and forgave his white tormentors. If he were another man, he would have undertaken vengeance and taught them a ‘bitter lesson’ when he became President. But he never sent his political opponents to prison, like we see around us. Nor did he extinguish imagined or real coup plotters, as it were, like we have seen around us.
 

Now, talking about forgiveness, I wonder what the people did to some of these African strongmen that they cannot forgive them the way Mandela forgave everyone who did everything, absurd, inhuman, to him. The people have done nothing to the Presidents, but they are doing everything absurd, inhuman to hurt the people, yet they admire Mandela’s exemplary way of life.
 

Mandela is not celebrated because he ruled for decades, but because he did just one term as President and passed on the baton. He demonstrated that it is not how long you govern, but how well. Mandela never wore five or six-piece suits. He wore simple sleeve shirts and that did not diminish his personality in anyway. Mandela never won the Nobel Prize for Peace because he decreed that “let there be peace,” as some African authoritarians are wont to do but because he worked hard for peace.

His administration rather instituted “Umbutu” which brought about Truth and Reconciliation and above all, Forgiveness. His attempt at sport (boxing) must have taught him how hard it was to win a fight or a match. But he realised that sport was a unifying factor; that is how he captured it in these words (paraphrase), “Sport has the power to unite the world.”

Mandela demonstrated this by always donning the jersey of the South African national team, Bafana Bafana, to encourage them each time they were on an expedition. This was a moral booster to the team and it played with a lot of patriotism. His successors; Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, have donned the Bafana Bafana jerseys to give their boys that moral support. But our other African leaders?

Apartheid was abolished in South Africa in 1992. Mandela became President and set an all-inclusive stage for social, political and economic development. He fostered democracy. That is why South Africa took less than 10 years to become one of the world’s emerging economies. Today, 21 years after, South Africa is one of the top world economies.

But, here, in the Cameroons, we have adopted ethnocracy (government dominated by one ethnic group). Ethnocracy is another form of apartheid, and it has stalled development. We are still waiting to emerge in 22 years to come, according to Vision 2035. This means that if our President is blessed with life, he would be 102 years when the country emerges.

But if he were to pass on like Mandela at 95, he would be seven years gone before his vision is realised. Mandela, in spite of the fact that he spent 27 years in prison, when he was made President, spent only one term of office and handed over. He never attempted to change the length of the term of office; he never tried to change the term limit. When he visited Cameroon, our own President did not come out to receive this world icon.

When asked how he felt that he was not received by the President of Cameroon, Mandela stated that a nation is known not by how it treats its highest citizens but how it treats its lowest citizens. South Africa cannot try to write its history without its first post-apartheid President, Mandela, nor can it without the names of those who fought for freedom like Oliver Tambo, Steve Biko and the rest. They cannot even write it without Pieta Botha, as the last President of apartheid South Africa.
 

Here, we are trying to write history without the very founders of the nation, as we observed in the last but one dose of this column. Mandela was such a good example that Cameroonian musicians celebrated him. There are also so many parents that named their children after him. Today, such parents feel fulfilled; the children named after the Madiba are happy to bear the name.
 

But I know many parents who named their children after an African Head of State when he came to power.  They have never stopped regretting. The children themselves, after they came of age, did everything not to be called by that name. If you doubt me, remind anyone that he is the Head of State’s namesake and watch their reaction.
Are We Together?
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01486
 

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