Today, Nigeria joins the rest of the global community to commemorate the 2019 Mandela International Day also known as Mandela Day, a day set aside by the United Nations to honour the iconic figure that triumphed over South Africa’s apartheid regime. The first Mandela Day was launched in New York on July 18, 2009, but the UN’s resolution to declare the day occurred later that year. On November 10, 2009, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 18 as “Nelson Mandela International Day”. The day marks the former South African president’s contribution to peace through his active involvement in resolving conflicts, promoting human rights, international democracy and reconciliation, and in addressing racial issues.
General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/13 recognises Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.
Nelson Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918. He is one of the most well-known anti-apartheid activists in South Africa. He was jailed in 1963 for leading the liberation movement against apartheid and for his stance on the human right to live in freedom. Mandela’s prisoner number was 466 and the year was 1963 when he was imprisoned on Robben Island, off Cape Town in South Africa. The Robben Island prisoners were never referred to by their names, but rather by their numbers and year of imprisonment – hence 46664 was Nelson Mandela’s number. His release from prison in 1990 fed political debates in the country and contributed to South Africa’s transition towards a multi-racial democracy.
After his release, Nelson Mandela continued addressing racial issues in his country and supported reconciliation initiatives. His efforts resulted in him becoming elected as South Africa’s president in 1994. He remained in office as president until 1999. He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, together with another former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk, in 1993. In 2007 Mandela formed the Elders, an independent group of global leaders who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major human suffering causes and promote shared interests of humanity.
At the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on Monday, September 24, 2018, to mark the centenary of Mandela’s birthday, UN member states and representatives of civil society unanimously adopted a resolution declaring 2019–2028 the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace.
The resolution honours the famed South African revolutionary whose struggle for racial equality and nonviolence brought an end to the country’s bloody period of apartheid. It also serves to reaffirm the UN’s dedication to promoting universal human rights in communities around the world, as Mandela did. “We resolve to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non‑discriminatory societies,” the Declaration stated
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also spoke about Mandela’s legacy, remembering him as “one of humanity’s great leaders,” adding, “We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied.” Mandela was able to transform his words into action and spur real change in his deeply divided home country, and his message of peace subsequently spread around the world, skyrocketing him to international fame as a symbol for equality and tolerance.
In Nigeria, several activities have been lined up to mark the Mandela Day. To commemorate the day, the Advisory Board of the Global Advocacy for African Affairs organised a colloquium/dinner with the theme “Roadmap to Shared Prosperity” which held on Tuesday in Abuja. The keynote address was delivered by the US Ambassador to Nigeria, W. Stuart Symington.
The event celebrated the life, times and legacies of the world icon, while further providing a platform for African leaders, international mediators and negotiators, researchers, policy makers, development practitioners and writers on African issues, to dialogue and debate on critical issues of development and governance in the continent with emphasis on building a strong and virile Africa. It was an avenue for shinning the spotlight on trends, opportunities and challenges while sharing experiences and best practices for the overall benefit of all.
With a handful number of people still living in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day), especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, the event sought to promote new, alternative and cutting edge thinking on poverty and development challenges that face the developing nations and particularly Africa.
In the same vein, the United Nations Association of Nigeria in partnership with the South African Consulate Lagos and the United Nations Information Center (UNIC), will host the 2019 Nelson Mandela Day in Lagos Nigeria. This year, Mandela Day calls on us to Take Action Against Poverty and make the world a better place every day.
Flowing from the Mandela legacy, we urge Nigerian leaders not to merely imbibe but also to demonstrate the Mandela ideals, which the country direly need given her deepening fault-lines and divisiveness occasioned by poor leadership across all levels of governance.