People & Power

Madiba has flown, but Mandela lives

Share Bookmark Print Rating
By Prof. George W. Kanyeihamba

Posted  Sunday, December 15  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Africa is the proudest continent for having given birth and nurtured the greatest human leader the world has ever known. Africa should also be ashamed that it has so far failed in living or producing the likes of Mandela.


The great South African falcon, Madiba, has flown away to join other great African falcons. Nelson Mandela, the African and world leader, the icon of icons, lives and will live forever.
As men and women of the world long and crave for principled, selfless leadership, the name, the courage and deeds of Nelson Mandela will live on and on with all humans endeavouring perhaps to emulate Mandela, but never to equal or surpass him in their own brands of leadership. I boldly state this truism fully aware that no similar facts or circumstances under which president Mandela worked and succeeded to become the greatest political icon the world has ever known, will ever occur again.

Africa is the proudest continent for having given birth and nurtured the greatest human leader the world has ever known. Africa should also be ashamed that it has so far failed in living or producing the likes of Mandela.

Going by the world eulogies and worship which he received both alive and in death, Mandela easily dwarfed all other previous and present world leaders except that he has been compared to the world’s great social, political and religious leaders such as Moses, Genghis Khan, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha, in varying degrees of importance, performance and achievement.

Significant and genuine statements of appreciation were published, having been given by the leaders of the entire universe as we know and perceive them today. The President and leaders of the United States of America, China, Russia, Great Britain, France, India, Germany, Kenya, Japan, amongst others, spoke and spoke well and movingly about the qualities of Nelson Mandela as a political leader whose vision and acts were always beyond race, tribe or political divide.

In matters of leadership, Mandela came out as a visionary human being whose intellect and ability to reconcile the almost irreconcilable, surpassed that of any other political leader whether alive or dead.

In the context of African politics, the name, philosophy, decisions and magnanimity of Nelson Mandela are so gigantic that they dwarf every other African political leader whether known or unknown. Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom summed up everything every living human being of the world would have wished to say and certainly wishes to re-echo even today, when he said, “It is not that Mandela was the hero of the world today. He is a hero of all time.” Presidents Barak Obama, Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary, amongst so many, beautifully repeated this sweet chorus of success in praise of Mandela.

If there is one leader in Africa today who is foolish enough to suppose that his or her vision and magnanimity can measure up to Mandela’s political values and standards, such a leader should be sent to the paradise of the mentally disturbed.

While at the University of Wales, Cardiff, I had the opportunity to work with Welsh people who vigorously opposed apartheid and strongly supported the cause of Mandela and the African National Congress of South Africa. In that capacity, I participated in a national debate on Independent television in 1995, along with the former British ministers Denis Healey and Julian Amory and the then South African Ambassador in London concerning the future of the apartheid system in South Africa.

Most participants except for the South African ambassador and the then appointed Mayor of Soweto, opposed the system as politically unsustainable and a recipe for disaster in that country. The ambassador faced me and said, “Eh, you, are you not from Uganda? Did you know that the standard of living of our blacks in South Africa is far much better than your lot in black Africa?”

I stared at him angrily and remarked, “Do you know that not far away from here at Buckingham Palace the Queen’s dogs eat and drink well. They have their own vet and dog-minders, specially trained. Would you like to be one of those dogs?” He had no other words. Later, we learned that the same ambassador had resigned from his post and co-founded a political party to oppose apartheid.

When Mandela was eventually released from jail, he visited Uganda where Museveni’s government in which I served, was amongst his strongest supporters. I was amongst those privileged to be introduced to him and shake his hand. I have never forgotten that handshake which was warm and strengthening to my belief and sense of justice and integrity in public affairs.

Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court