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Mandela’s life of sacrifice

By President Yoweri Museveni

As a freedom fighter he fulfilled his mission of throwing out oppressors

It is with sadness that I heard of the news of Mzee Nelson Mandela’s death.

The sad and heroic story of Mzee Mandela starts in 1453 AD when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople (Istanbul as it is called today) from the Byzantine Empire.  That capture blocked the overland route from Europe to Asia that had been established by Marco Polo many centuries before.  That route was important to Europe especially for spices and silk trade.


With that blockage, the Europeans started looking for an alternative sea route to the East, around the massive African continent. Prince Henry, the Navigator, of Portugal established a naval school at Cadiz to improve on the construction of ships and on navigation techniques so that they could have ships that could withstand long Ocean voyages to Asia, around Africa.

This is not the time and place to go into the details of that European effort of circumventing the Moslem blockade.

Suffice it to say that by 1498, a mere 45 years after the fall of Constantinople, the Portuguese, Vasco Da Gama, had rounded the Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town) and spent the Christmas of that year at Natal, that is why that area was so named, remembering the birth of Christ.

With the discovery of the sea route to the Far East by the Europeans, that is where the sad but also heroic story of Nelson Mandela and Africa begins.  Initially, the Europeans came as traders, establishing refuelling and replenishment stations for their ships on the way to the Far East.  Within a few centuries, however, the traders had become the colonizers.  The sad thing is that while all this was unfolding, the African Chiefs and other leaders never made serious efforts to co-ordinate in order to guarantee our future as free people.  Yes, various tribes fought the colonialists.  However, the co-ordination was either not there or too late.

On account of internal weaknesses within Africa, therefore, by the birth of Mzee Mandela in 1918, the whole of African continent, except for Ethiopia, had been colonised.

Therefore, Mandela had the misfortune of being born under colonialism like many of us were.  Various individuals reacted differently to this situation.  Many acquiesced and accepted colonialism or even collaborated with it.  However, a few others like Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, etc., chose the difficult, hard route of resistance to colonialism.  That resistance invited reprisals from the oppressors.  The African National Congress (ANC) people are more qualified to go into the details of that resistance by the Party and the individuals that were involved.

On account of our Pan-Africanist orientation, we linked up with the ANC in 1967 in Dar es-Salaam.  Ever since that time, the NRM, or its precursors, have been working closely with the Liberation Movements of Southern Africa – ZANU, ZAPU, FRELIMO, ANC, SWAPO, MPLA, etc, etc.

The resistance of all the colonised peoples in the world had benefitted from three factors:

  • The continued resistance of those colonised peoples,
  • The fratricidal fighting among the imperialists (the 1st and 2nd World Wars); and
  • The solidarity from the socialist countries (Soviet Union, China, etc., ever since 1917)

That resistance had led to some of the cleverer imperialists giving back the freedom of the people peacefully, examples being India and many of the African countries, including Uganda.  However, those who were not so clever, such as Portugal and the Boers of South Africa and Rhodesia, thought they could maintain their colonial or minority and racist regimes.  It was the lot of freedom fighters like Mzee Mandela and his colleagues to sacrifice and fight those regimes.

Mzee Mandela spent almost the whole of his adult life fighting for freedom, starting as a youth in the 1940s.  Eventually, he went to jail where he spent 27 years.  Out of his 95 years on earth, given to him by God, it is only in the last 22 years, since 1991, that he has lived as a free man.  What a sacrifice!!  Even those 22 last years of his life, he was not out of danger.  Did I not recently hear of South African racists that were plotting to kill him for fighting for freedom?

Didn’t Chris Hani die; shot dead, when South Africa was preparing for the first democratic elections?  Chris Hani had been at Rwakitura to visit me where I tried to prevail on him not to go back to South Africa yet, but in vain.

Mzee Mandela and his colleagues in the ANC have fulfilled their mission of throwing out the oppressors.  It is the duty of the present generation to immunize Africa against future colonisation.

Salutations to the sacrifices and achievements of Mzee Mandela and his colleagues.

Rtd.  Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni is the chairman of the NRM and President of the Republic of Uganda

World Leaders Speak

Barack Obama

President of the United States

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real. A free South Africa at peace with itself – that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived – a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. May God bless his memory and keep him in peace.

Pope Francis

Pope of the Catholic Church

Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation’s citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late President’s example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations. With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity.

Bill Clinton

former US President

When you were around Mandela you wanted to be a bigger person – you knew you could be better than you were. History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.”

Prince William

Duke of Cambridge

One of the most inspirational human beings to have lived and without doubt the nicest man I ever met. I will miss you, we will miss you. Will remember him for the great example he gave of the power of forgiveness. And from his forgiveness great hope grew. South Africa has lost its greatest citizen and its father. Nelson Mandela, fighting to the end, is freed to be with his God in joy and reward for his great service and sacrifice.

Dr Manmohan Singh

Dr Manmohan Singh Prime Minister of India

A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof singer-songwriter, author and political activist

History stops, kneels and bows its head. His like is rare in all of human history. There will be others but not for a long, long time and certainly not in our lifetimes. But we did live with him. We could see what humans could be even if we failed so utterly to live up to his impossible example. We have been privileged to have known such a man. “What will survive of us is Love”. Nelson Mandela was truly, genuinely loved. He knew it and he never, not once, betrayed, besmirched, or cheapened it.

David Cameron

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero. Across the country he loved, they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life. A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time

African Leaders

Uhuru  Kenyatta ,

President of Kenya

‘Shujaa’ Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was an exceptional transformational leader who was gifted with unique, admirable abilities and strong values. He believed in the noble principles of equity, justice, cohesiveness and inclusiveness in governance. He had faith and confidence in the ability of his people to realise the dream of a free, united and prosperous South Africa. His life story teaches the great lesson of the power of will in turning adversity to victory.

In his humility President Mandela did what was right, made tremendous sacrifices and did not seek any form of personal praise. In short, President Mandela’s name is cast on the echelons of history. His image and standing among all men will forever stand tall. Madiba’s story defined and reflected the history and struggles of our continent. In President Mandela, we learn never to backtrack in our journey to chart our destiny. We have the responsibility of living by the ideals that he stood for. His legacy encrypts the story of humanity, now and tomorrow.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chair of the AU Commission,

Mandela has fought a good fight, and bowed out with great reverence. His passing on is a great loss to his family, to our continent and indeed to humanity itself.  Madiba, symbolizes the spirit of pan-Africanism and solidarity in the struggles of humanity against apartheid, oppression and colonialism and for self-determination, peace and reconciliation.

President Goodluck Jonathan ,

President of Nigeria

Mandela will always be remembered and honoured by all mankind as one of its greatest liberators, a wise, courageous and compassionate leader, and an icon of true democracy. Mandela’s death will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent.”

President John Dramani Mahama ,

President of Ghana

A man of peace and tolerance who sowed unifying peace in South Africa, he was an icon, not only of hope, but also of the possibility for healing. His utilisation of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonisation, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion, and forgiveness must play a role in governance.

Senegal’s President Macky Sall,

We have lost a giant, one of the greatest figures in contemporary Africa. No man of our time has given so much for the cause of his people, for Africa, and for the good of mankind. Nelson Mandela taught us courage, strength, forgiveness. He showed us that a human being could be better.

Jakaya Kikwete

President the United Republic of Tanzania

The world has lost one of its greatest citizens. A voice of courage, a source of inspiration and a beloved leader to us all

Ugandan Leaders

Olara Otunnu,

President of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC)

The death of Nelson Mandela is a huge loss to the African continent but it is a unique mix of grieving, celebration and pride. Grief because of what happened in the past, celebration because we had a moral political giant from Africa. There is no moral political figure in the world that comes before Nelson Mandela. At a personal level I feel very sad because I got to know and work very closely with him and especially his wife Gracia.

In Uganda we need to learn from his resoluteness, determination and relentless fight for freedom. To contribute to one’s country’s fight for a better tomorrow, you don’t necessarily need to be in power. Even though he was oppressed for so long, he found it not hard to extend the hand for reconciliation and that is a great lesson for Uganda, Africa and the rest of the world.

Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga,

Speaker of Parliament and Chairperson Common Wealth Women Parlia

In my view he was a cradle of humanity. He was able to sacrifice his personal life so that the majority of Africans can be free. He was unique and I doubt that we shall get his kind in the near future but the most important thing we can learn from him as a country is the commitment to pursuit of freedom and our rights. As parliament we have opened up a condolence book where the public and members of parliament are to sign and the book will be sent to South Africa. A motion will also be moved in parliament and we will pay tribute to him.

Amama Mbabazi (off his twitter account),

Prime Minister of Uganda

I was privileged to know him and he was a true inspiration. I will always cherish his memory. Madiba was one of the greatest leaders in the world. My sympathies to the family and to the world for this loss.

Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere

Former President General of Democratic Party (DP)

I knew Mandela even before I met him. He is someone who fought for a good cause for which he suffered. When he was eventually released he forgave those that had tormented him. He worked with them to ensure a peaceful change from apartheid to a multi-racial society.

When he became president he administered the country fairly on a non-racial basis. After words he relinquished power peacefully and I salute him for that because he was engaged in a political fight which he believed in. The young generation should not give up on democracy. They should fight earnestly and peacefully and should not call for revenge but be able to work for reconciliation like Madiba did.

Gerald Sendawula

Former Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and Chairman PSFU

Am extremely lucky that I had the opportunity and privilege to meet him in Maputo where he had a home and also at his home in Johannesburg. He had a great sense of humour. There are not very many people even after being provoked and treated badly can accept to work together with their former tormentors and forget the past. The fact that he took one term as President and voluntarily stepped down is one of the things that we can learn from him. He had very many special attributes from which our leaders can draw inspiration.

Kintu Musoke,

Former Prime Minister of Uganda

As a revolutionary, I regard Nelson Mandela as the greatest African of all time. He has left a legacy of vision and conviction which we all should emulate if Africa is to change to a better place. His soul should not just rest in peace but should continue inspiring us to better heights.

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda ,

Minister of Health Uganda

Mandela is an icon for African liberation. He showed us an example for reconciling communities and people. He has lived a relatively humble life and was very humane. There are many lessons especially young people can learn from him like having values and defending freedom. We should also promote reconciliation which he stood for. Lastly we should have humility and know that we are human beings at the end of the day.

Dr James Rwanyarare,

Lawyer and Politician

He is an icon in the world. God just dispenses a few of the likes of Mandela and Gandhi who can overcome challenges like they faced. He has done it wonderfully and it is impeccable because he came out of prison and handled a new job well. Our leaders both in Uganda and in Africa are to blame because they have been given a challenge and in our case have failed to learn. Grooming successors through our own children does not work, we need to look at the entire country and groom future leaders. Good bye Mandela a job well done.

Sebaana Kizito,

Former President General of Democratic Party (DP) and Mayor of Kampala

Mandela was very courageous. He fought the European regime when nobody thought that it could be defeated. He was very patient and he stood up for the black man. Ugandans should learn that they should leave office when time comes even when they are very popular. They should not serve for too long.

George Mike Mukula,

Soroti Municipality MP NRM party Vice Chairman for Eastern region

Mandela was an epitome of humility. He never bore any spirits of revenge and advocated for forgiveness. He was one of the greatest freedom fighters that mankind has ever witnessed and he was a leader who believed in the potential of others which is why he was in power for only five years and left. This is something that we as leaders should emulate.

Nobert Mao,

President of the Democratic Party

Leaders like Mandela never die. He has left a legacy of tolerance, commitment to peace and an undying love for humanity. Real change is both a demolition job and a construction job. He demolished apartheid and laid a firm foundation for a new South Africa. Amandla!

Augustine Ruzindana ,

Former IGG and MP

Whenever anyone dies we are sad but in this case we should be happy that he has rested. He fought for freedom, democracy and justice and as a human being he has been very successful. He believed in dialogue and reconciliation. This is the most important aspect because in Africa we are a very diverse region. What we should learn from his example is dialogue rather than tear gas. The things he fought against are everywhere in the world and that is why he is a world hero.

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