See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Africa: Nelson Mandela, an Icon Transcending Differences

On his 94th birthday, the entire world is celebrating Nelson Mandela, and the internet users of Francophone Africa are no exception. In the current context of crisis for many nations of the region, and for a continent always in search of true leadership, Nelson Mandela remains an absolute icon of the African renaissance, throughout the continent. Francophone bloggers have praised the life of the man whom they affectionately call “Madiba”, and the lessons learned from his struggle.

An icon beyond geographic and linguistic barriers

If the story of Nelson Mandela still resonates with young Africans, 22 years after his release, it is also an indication that his struggle is still relevant for many who aspire to a broader future, in an economic context which still limits the fulfillment of their capabilities. Many internet users of various Francophone countries were keen to pay tribute to him:

In Sénégal, Babacar, of Gri Gri News, wishes a happy birthday [fr] to “Madiba” :

 Toute l'équipe de rédacteurs de notre magazine en ligne Panafricain souhaite un joyeux anniversaire à Nelson Mandela à l'occasion de ses quatre vingt quatorze ans. Intiment nommé “Madiba”, Nelson Mandela est le symbole de de l'Afrique du sud et de toute l'Afrique pour sa lutte contre l'apartheid avec l'ANC

The entire editorial team of of our pan-African online magazine wishes Nelson Mandela a happy 94th birthday. Nicknamed “Madiba”, Nelson Mandela is the symbol of South Africa, and of all Africa, for his struggle against apartheid with the African National Congress (ANC).

In Madagascar, The Liberty 32 Association quotes Mandela,

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”  – N. Mandela

and adds  [fr]:

 Alors, allons éduquer les jeunes, les citoyens et pourquoi pas nos dirigeants?

So, let's educate young people, citizens, and why not our leaders as well

Cammile Chauvet of Naif WebZine explains why this birthday  is of particular importance [fr] :

Les hommes naissent. Les hommes vivent Les hommes meurent. Les mauvais ouvriers ont droit à l’oubli. Ceux qui œuvrent encore. Ceux qui ont œuvré doivent être toujours présents dans nos pensées et dans nos actes, nous devons en permanence les vénérer, et Nelson Mandela est de ceux que nous devons vénérer…

All men are born, live, and then die. Those who accomplish no good deserve to be forgotten. But there are also men who are still working to achieve their goals. And those men who have accomplished what they set out to do must always be present in our thoughts and in our actions, those men we must honor forever. Nelson Mandela is one of those whom we must honor…

Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 from the Wikimedia Commons

In Togo, Renaud Towe addresses the post-Mandela era [fr] of the ANC:

à partir de 1996, Thabo Mbeki prend la gestion quotidienne du pays et en décembre 1997 la présidence de l’ANC. Mandela lui laisse progressivement le pouvoir, en douceur, ce qui contribue à la stabilisation politique du pays. Il quitte complètement la tête de l’État le 16 juin 1999, date anniversaire des évènements de Soweto (..) (Cependant) le manque de cohésion sociale, les injustices, les inégalités économiques entre Blancs et Noirs persistent, malgré l’apparition d’une classe moyenne noire. Cette situation déclenche une certaine colère parmi les dirigeants noirs, particulièrement ceux de l’ANC, à présent divisé entre les adeptes de la coexistence pacifique avec la minorité blanche et les partisans du règlement de compte, des nationalisations, des saisies de fermes (..) Le rêve d’une « Nation arc-en-ciel » n’est plus véritablement la priorité au sein de l’ANC.

Beginning in 1996, Thabo Mbeki took over the day-to-day management of the country, and in December 1997, assumed the presidency of the ANC. Mandela gave him more power gradually, a fact which contributed to the political stabilization of the country. He resigned completely as Head of State on June 16 1999, the date of the anniversary of the Soweto uprising (..) (However) a lack of social cohesion, injustice, and economic inequality between whites and blacks persists, despite the emergence of a black middle class. This situation has triggered anger among some black leaders, particularly those of the ANC, which is currently divided between advocates of peaceful coexistence with the white minority, and supporters of reparations, nationalization, and seizure of farms (.. ) The dream of a “Rainbow Nation” is no longer a real priority within the ANC.


54to1 pays tribute to Mandela and to the concept of Ubuntu 

A man who transcends ideological divisions

Mandela's ability to overcome political divisions, and to honor his role as statesman, seems to be the legacy that has most impressed African bloggers:

In Brazzaville, Congo,  Mingwa Mia Biango publishes in French the entire inaugural speech of Nelson Mandela from 1994, and adds [fr] :

Président d’une Afrique du Sud assumant sa diversité, il alternera, au fil de son mandat, les succès et les échecs mais saura, à l’issue de celui-ci, ne pas s’accrocher au pouvoir et céder la main, donnant ainsi un dernier exemple à d’autres leaders du continent.

[Mandela as] the President of South Africa, while embracing its diversity, alternated between success and failure throughout his mandate. But at the end of his term, he knew not to cling to power, and let go of his position, and thus gave one last example for other leaders of the continent to follow.

In Côte d'Ivoire, Ben Ismael, on the website  l'Intelligent d'Abidjan, marvels [fr] at Mandela's ability to surpass ideologies and to organize :

 Nelson Mandela était le véritable exemple de l'opposition politique, apaisée. Ce grand animateur des ”agoras” de l'ANC, en compagnie de Olivier Tambo, n'a jamais voulu prendre le pouvoir politique, ni à la tête de l'ANC, ni à la tête de l'Etat Sud-africain par les armes, jusqu'à son emprisonnement. Même prisonnier, Nelson Mandela avait mené une opposition civilisée, face au ”pouvoir blanc” sud-africain dont la gouvernance se reposait sur le développement séparé, ou l'apartheid. Excellent opposant, Nelson Mandela parlait aux Blancs sud-africains avec politesse, courtoisie. Même réputé grand combattant, il avait le respect pour ses adversaires et avait fait sa spécialité, la liberté des noirs sud-africains.

Nelson Mandela was a true example of peaceful political opposition. This great facilitator of the “agoras” of the ANC, along with Oliver Tambo, never wanted to take political power, nor to become head of the ANC, nor to become the Head of State of South Africa via armed rebellion, up to the time of his imprisonment. Even as a prisoner, Nelson Mandela led a civilized opposition, facing the South African ”white power” whose governance was based on separation of ethnic groups or apartheid. An excellent opposition figure, Nelson Mandela spoke to white South Africans with respect and courtesy. While regarded as a great fighter, he had respect for his opponents, and made the struggle for freedom for black South Africans his main goal.

The Congolese website “Events RDC” conclude the tributes to Mandela by saying [fr] :

Il n’ya pas de meilleur hommage que nous puissions rendre à l’héritage de Madiba que le développement de notre nation dans une société civile active qui roule de façon désintéressée, retrousse ses manches et fait une différence.

There is no better tribute we can pay to the legacy of Madiba than the development of our nation in an active civil society, which runs along selflessly, rolls up its sleeves, and makes a difference.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices
* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site