The world has learnt with great sadness of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s passing. Even though he was of advanced age and in increasingly frail health, we had over the past few years (and especially over these past few months) jealously clung to his presence in our lives.
Mandela has had an indelible impact on our community (and our work) studying the essence of peace and security. This has been the case not only in our academic studies but also in our personal lives. Madiba was so much more than an inspirational freedom fighter and iconic president of South Africa; he transcended the bitter divides of South Africa’s history to become a “father” to the new South African nation—the only political “father” we have ever had. It is very, very difficult for us to think of democratic South Africa without his crinkly smile, deep voice, and slow, tall walk. Yet more than that, he inspired our entire continent and its people, and had an immense influence on the changing face of Africa as a whole. For him the emphasis was always on human dignity—everything he did was steeped in his belief in equality and the value of people. He gave tirelessly to South Africa and the continent, making it his mission to achieve peace and equality for all Africans alike.
The secret to this man’s great achievements was well captured by President Obama’s response upon hearing of President Mandela’s passing: he was a man who showed us what could be done when people are guided by their hopes, and not their fears.
May his spirit forever live inside all of us. May we all follow in his footsteps and commit ourselves to the long walk to freedom, for all the citizens of Africa.
Hamba kahle, Madiba. We will never forget you.