In his independence address of 6th March 1957, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said that Ghana’s independence would be incomplete unless it is linked up with the liberation of other African territories. Almost forty years later Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was sworn in as first President of post apartheid South Africa. South Africans rejoiced. People across Africa exhaled. African Americans marvelled. If South Africa has sworn in a black President, then maybe, just maybe, the U.S. would one day have a black President too. Fifteen years later Barack Obama was sworn in as President.
These are monumental achievements. Yet we can hardly speak of liberation of Africa, for Africans, and by the people of Africa. For how can there be liberation when sovereign African states still depend on subsidies from donor countries? How can Africans claim to be free when legal systems in Africa have failed their people? What hope is there for Africans when the only time in recent times that African leaders unite is to insulate themselves from accountability for alleged crimes against their own people? Can Africans be truly free when their hard worn rights are so fragile?
These are some of the thoughts that come to mind as we celebrate the life and contributions of a human rights icon. Kofi Annan said of Madiba’s death “the world has lost a visionary leader”, or perhaps the world’s last visionary leader has died.