Accra, July 18, 2016 – How wonderful it is to freely drive our own cars and walk freely on the streets of our own motherland. How gratifying it is to have the opportunity to work, earn our own income and raise our children up in conducive and comfortable conditions. How privileged we are to be regarded as a part of humanity.
Mandela raises his fist in the air while addressing the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall in June 1990
Many years ago, our ancestors and forefathers were not this lucky. Wait a minute…we can argue on this premise, right? Well, back then, somewhere in the middle of time, our forefathers and ancestors could only tell hopeful prophetic stories of freedom. Africa was under the constraint and rule of Western European powers who divided our continent and our rich resources into political partitions. Many years ago, it was considered hapless to be born black. It spelled out a lifetime of pain and suffering; an existence involving labor and disregard.
Slowly but surely, African nations began to revolt and seek their independence. Amongst all the uprising and struggle for independence, the most notable and perhaps, the most significant was that of South Africa. Their compelling story of freedom struggle and the sacrifices made by the people in overcoming the oppression of colonialism and apartheid has been inscribed in the hearts of all Africans, many of us, permanently. It is impossible to mention the fight against the South African apartheid without crediting the movement’s most prominent figure; Nelson Mandela.
Born Rolihlahla Mandela in Mvezo, a small village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, the name Nelson was given to him when he enrolled in a local mission primary school. Later in life, Nelson Mandela became a highly influential anti-apartheid activist and a global advocate for human rights. As a ranking member of the African National Congress party, Nelson Mandela led several peaceful and armed protests against oppression imposed by the minority government in South Africa. His actions landed him in prison for nearly three decades and made him the face of the anti-apartheid movement both within his country and internationally.
Released from prison in 1990, he continued his struggle to rid his country of apartheid and in 1994 he became the first black president of South Africa. Inspired by his own advocacy on equality and tolerance, he formed a multi-ethnic government to oversee the country’s transition. After retiring from politics in 1999, he remained a devoted champion for peace and social justice in his own nation and around the world until his death in 2013 at the age of 95.
We can all learn valuable lessons from the life of Nelson Mandela. He was the definition of perseverance. Despite all his foes and the odds stacked against him, the former South African president pushed on to help bring an end to apartheid. As South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994, Mandela tackled the challenge of uniting both the country’s racial groupings and a fragmented public service. Mandela was one of the few leaders capable of inspiring confidence both inside and outside the country.
For 67 years, Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity. He was an advocate for peace and a human rights lawyer. To recognize his contributions and efforts to achieving a peaceful and global community, the United Nations General Assembly, in November 2009 declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day”.. The Mandela Day is an initiative and a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, the ability to make an impact. The Day calls on every global citizen to “give 67 minutes of public service for Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to humanity.” This is why the United Nations Information Centre team in Accra is hosting an outreach programme at Accra Academy to imbibe in the youth a sense of responsibility, knowledge and power to “Take Action and Inspire Change!
There is no doubt that Mandela’s achievements have been observed globally and have set an exemplary standard of humanity in supporting a culture of international collaboration and peace. His willingness to fight against injustice and racism wherever he met it and his inspirational leadership style are the reasons why Nelson Mandela’s name will forever be hailed as a hero and written in our books of history.
As former US president Bill Clinton said. “In return for everything Madiba has taught us, we each owe it to him to support his work and legacy by doing and living our own as best we can, not just on this day, but throughout our entire lives.”
By devoting 67 minutes of your time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good. So on this this day join us to “Take Action! Inspire Change!
By: Nii Odartey-Wellington, Intern at United Nations Information Centre, Accra