Remarkable People

ID #5263

Nelson Mandela 5 International Affairs.

Mandela helped resolve the dispute between Libya, on the one hand, and the US and Britain on the other over the trial of Libyans accused of sabotaging Pan Am Flight 103, which crashed at Lockerbie in December 1988. He proposed that the two be tried in a third country. Bush reacted favourably, as did President Mitterrand of France and King Juan Carlos I of Spain. In November 1994 – six months after his election as president – Mandela proposed that South Africa should be the venue for trial. However, John Major flatly rejected the idea, saying his government did not have confidence in foreign courts. A further three years elapsed until Mandela's offer was repeated to Tony Blair. Later Mandela warned: "No one nation should be complainant, prosecutor and judge."

A compromise was agreed for the trial to be held at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands under Scots law. Mandela began negotiations with Gaddafi for handover of the two accused in April 1999. The verdict was announced in January 2001 -- Fhimah was found not guilty, but Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to 27 years in a Scottish jail. Megrahi's appeal was turned down in March 2002 and Mandela went to visit him in Barlinnie prison in June 2002. “Megrahi is all alone” Mandela told a press conference in the prison's visitors room. “He has nobody he can talk to. It is psychological persecution that a man must stay for the length of his long sentence all alone. It would be fair if he were transferred to a Muslim country — and there are Muslim countries trusted by the West. It will make it easier for his family to visit him if he were in Morocco, Tunisia or Egypt.”

Megrahi was subsequently moved to Greenock jail and out of solitary confinement. In August 2009 Megrahi, suffering from cancer, was released and allowed to return to Libya. In a letter to the Scottish Government on behalf of Mandela, the Nelson Mandela Foundation expressed its support for the decision to release Megrahi.

Mandela's son Makgatho died of AIDS on 6 January 2005. Since retirement, one of Mandela's commitments has been to the fight against AIDS. He gave the closing address at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban in 2000. In 2003, he lent support to the 46664 AIDS fundraising campaign, named after his prison number. In July 2004, he flew to Bangkok to speak at the 15th International AIDS Conference. Mandela's AIDS activism is chronicled in Stephanie Nolen's book 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa.

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe has been criticized for the 1980s fighting which killed 3000 people as well as corruption, incompetent administration, political oppression and cronyism that led to the economic collapse of the country. Despite their common background as national liberators, Mandela and Mugabe were seldom close. Mandela criticized Mugabe in 2000, referring to African leaders who had liberated their countries but then overstayed their welcome. In retirement, Mandela spoke out less often on Zimbabwe and other international and domestic issues, sometimes leading to criticism for not using his influence to greater effect. George Bizos revealed that Mandela has been advised to avoid engaging in stressful activity such as political controversy. Nonetheless, in 2007, Mandela attempted to persuade Mugabe to leave office "sooner than later", with "a modicum of dignity", before he was hounded out like Augusto Pinochet. In June 2008, at the height of the crisis over the Zimbabwean presidential election, Mandela condemned the "tragic failure of leadership" in Zimbabwe

Mandela strongly opposed the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo, calling it an attempt by powerful nations to police the world. In 2002 and 2003, Mandela criticized US foreign policy in a number of speeches. Criticizing the lack of UN involvement in the decision to begin the war in Iraq, he said, "It is a tragedy, what is happening, what Bush is doing. But Bush is now undermining the United Nations." Mandela stated he would only support action against Iraq if it were ordered by the UN. He insinuated that the US may have been motivated by racism in not following UN secretary-general Kofi Annan on the issue of the war. "Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations is now a black man? They never did that when secretary’s-general were white".

He urged people in the U.S. to join protests against Bush and called on world leaders, especially those with vetoes in the UN Security Council, to oppose him. “What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, now wants to plunge the world into a holocaust." He attacked the US for its record on human rights and for dropping atomic bombs on Japan during WW2. "If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care." Mandela also condemned Tony Blair, referring to him as the "foreign minister of the United States."

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:35
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.3

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