Nelson Mandela passed away today, at the age of 95. There aren't many other figures in recent history who have inspired us Africans in the same way, and sacrificed so much for his people with such humility. This is a piece I wrote a little while back but never published...now is perhaps a fitting time.
The world is an emptier place without Madiba.
He is one of the great men in modern history, one of the true statesmen that have graced us with their wisdom.
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
My family originates from the Horn of the continent; having been born in Sudan and flavoured with Egyptian and Moroccan blood, I am thoroughly north African.
As with all African nations (bar one!), the effects of colonisation was keenly felt in Sudan. Interestingly, the effects of their departure and the legacy that they left still remain. Sudan was conquered by the British, and in an effort to move on the current regime did everything they could to establish an 'anti-British' and ultimately 'anti-colonial' environment. This included reverting the education system to Arabic and implementing a strange version of Sharia Law that only applies when they see fit. In an attempt to find their own identity and cast of their colonial shackles, the nation has shackled itself to static ideologies and a fear of the 'other'.
Sudan isn't unique in this situation. Every nation has it's own story of post colonial struggle and the fight to define their national identity.
Madiba is a shining beacon of light in this darkness of confusion that African nations have sometimes found themselves in.
He, after all, is the man who fought the good fight for his people against the oppressors.
He, after all, is the man who won that fight.
Most importantly, he remained true and uncorrupted and has stood for democracy and truth steadfastly and with conviction.
“It always seems impossible until it's done.” he said. At the time, the end of apartheid did seem so. Yet here we are today.
It is difficult to put into words the importance that Nelson Mandela has in South Africa and around the continent. The monarch-like love for him, the deep caring the people have for their leader is unparalleled and very difficult to replace.
Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise for all that we have been made aware of his illness and frailty, in order to prepare us for the eventual truth. This way, the people are mentally preparing themselves and are thinking about the preservation of his legacy.
At the end of the day, all the love won't be enough if his legacy is lost. To honour his work and his life, we should all remember his words and his actions and aspire to work together and build a continent he would be proud of.
"I am here because of people like him" - Zola, a friend and South African sister.
Indeed we are, and we owe much to his legacy.