Africans in the Diaspora are mourning the loss of elder statesman Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday night from a recurring lung infection at the age of 95.
Mandela, also fondly known by his clan name Madiba, was elected the first black leader of South Africa in 1994 following decades under the white apartheid regime.
More than any other African leader Mandela embodied values of good governance and accountability while holding public office. He gracefully stepped down as president in 1999 and handed the baton over to Thabo Mbeki after one term in office.
“He showed that black leaders could command political and personal respect,” says Alexander Manda, an ex-Reuters journalist, of Malawi heritage, now based in Mexico City, Mexico. “He also showed that hatred, no matter how deeply felt, could be overcome.”
Mojisola Sonoiki, a New York IT consultant of Nigerian origin, agrees that Mandela made his mark as a global icon that inspired others to put their differences aside and work together.
“A phenomenal man and one of the greatest leaders that ever lived,” she says. “He practiced what he preached.”
Richard Adeshiyan, a journalist and media strategist, was one of a handful of black British reporters who flew into South Africa in 1994 to cover the country’s first multiracial democratic elections.
“I witnessed first-hand the nation’s collective optimism and more importantly Nelson Mandela’s incredible hold on South Africa’s black population,” says Adeshiyan.
“To witness the joy and exuberance of thousands of young and old people queuing at several Soweto polling stations on April 27, is an abiding memory and still sends shivers down my spine to this day.”
British-Nigerian filmmaker Charles Aniagolu says that Mandela was “an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.” He adds, “A towering influence who battled so hard in defense of freedom and changed the lives of millions of Africans.”
“Endowed with a remarkable heart for endurance, social justice and forgiveness, his legacy transcends borders and so richly projects the capacities of the human spirit to overcome seemingly intractable obstacles, especially, with dignity,” says Jude Akudinobi a lecturer at University of California, Santa Barbara.
“Nelson Mandela is so much more than a grey-haired lovable, smiling peacemaker,” says Texas-based author and life coach Aya Fubara Eneli. “He is a revolutionary who demonstrated the courage to stand up for his belief in the humanity and dignity of black Africans and all people.”
Still, she warns that disunity and economic inequalities continue to plague the continent.
“He paid a great price for his beliefs and while we revere his contributions and celebrate his life today, the truth is that black Africans are still not free today.”
“If anything, the chains of poverty and oppression that [have] spanned centuries seem to be tighter today than ever before and the disunity amongst Africans across the globe should have us all re-committing to his ideals not just in words, but in deed.”