Opinion

The Great Debate

from David Rohde:

Honor Mandela by stopping a genocide

As South Africans cheered President Barack Obama’s speech at the funeral of Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a nation of 4.6 million people 2,500 miles north was being torn apart by religious hatred.

Muslim civilians in the Central African Republic, clutching machetes and crude, homemade weapons, prepared to fight off marauding Christians. Christians were forming self-defense militias in other parts of a country the size of Texas, to prevent Muslims from slitting their throats.

“We drove through some villages where every single person has picked up arms,” Peter Bouckaert, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told me in a telephone interview from the republic on Tuesday. “Children as young as 11 have picked up daggers or have knives or even hunting rifles.”

As world leaders praised Mandela’s legacy of tolerance and reconciliation, the international community was still struggling with how to respond to one of humanity’s most depraved acts -- mass killings. Chaos and sectarian killings have steadily spread throughout the Central African Republic since predominantly Muslim Seleka -- “Alliance” -- rebels ousted the Christian president, Francois Bozize, in March.

Rebel leader Michel Djotodia lost control of his forces, which have carried out atrocities against Christians across the resource-rich, but unstable former French colony. Over time, Christian militias retaliated. Last week shootings, stabbings and lynchings spiraled across the country.

Mandela and De Klerk: Essential partners

When Nelson Mandela and South African President F.W. De Klerk began their historic negotiations to end apartheid, each man professed respect for the other. Indeed their relationship appeared not only professional, but personal.

Yet as the negotiations dragged on through 1992 and 1993, tempers grew short, and South Africans grew increasingly frustrated with the slow progress toward the liberation that had seemed so promising just a few years ago. Most worrisome, violence was growing between the supporters of Mandela’s political party, the African National Congress, and Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Inkhatha Freedom Party.

Much of the turmoil flamed in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, but it also spread dangerously into the outskirts of Johannesburg, which soon turned into a patchwork of no-go areas. On my effort to visit the area, for example, we were stopped by gunfire and forced to retreat. By the time of the elections in 1994, at least 3,000 people would be killed.

On meeting Mandela

Journalists are not easily impressed. We pride ourselves on our skepticism. (Most advisable of us, may I add.)

But I confess to having been in awe of Nelson Mandela, and not just in theory. I met him, spent about an hour with him — or, to put it more accurately, I spent about an hour in his presence.

It was in October, 1994, Mandela was the new president of South Africa and on a visit to the United States, seeking financial investments for his country. While in New York, he stopped in to speak to the editorial board of the New York Times, as people ranging from heads of state to political candidates did on a regular basis.

Mandela’s message of reconciliation

On the day that Nelson Mandela was elected as South Africa’s first black president, I drove across the fault lines of segregated suburbia to watch his fellow citizens vote him into office.

In the mixed-race “Malay Quarter” in central Cape Town — named for the residents descended from the Malaysian and Indonesian slaves brought to the city in the 17th and 18th centuries — joyous residents thronged the streets outside the polling stations.

In the affluent Atlantic seaboard suburb of Camps Bay, uniformed maids cheerfully made space so their white “madams” could wait with them in the long lines. And in a white blue-collar, mostly Afrikaner suburb on the edge of Table Bay, the queues moved quickest of all as the white group that implemented apartheid voted itself out of power with a grim — and ironic — efficiency.

America, terrorists and Nelson Mandela

berndforblog- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

Woe betide the organization or individual who lands on America’s terrorist list. The consequences are dire and it’s easier to get on the list than off it even if you turn to peaceful politics. Just ask Nelson Mandela.

One of the great statesmen of our time, Mandela stayed on the American terrorist blacklist for 15 years after winning the Nobel Prize prior to becoming South Africa’s first post-Apartheid president. He was removed from the list after then president George W. Bush signed into law a bill that took the label “terrorist” off members of the African National Congress (ANC), the group that used sabotage, bombings and armed attacks against the white minority regime.

The ANC became South Africa’s governing party after the fall of apartheid but the U.S. restrictions imposed on ANC militants stayed in place. Why? Bureaucratic inertia is as good an explanation as any and a look at the current list of what is officially labelled Foreign Terrorist Organisations (FTOs) suggests that once a group earns the designation, it is difficult to shake.

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