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Mandela, Obama

December 28, 2013
tags:#apartheid, #Barack Obama, #democracy, #Nelson Mandela
located:South Africa, USA
by:Jonathan Lutes
In his eulogy five days after Nelson Mandela’s death, President Obama talked about how he was first inspired by Mandela’s struggle when he was still a student in the U.S., and Mandela was a prisoner in South Africa.

Obama stressed that he constantly fails to live up to Mandela’s example, but is reminded to try to be a better man every day. As New York Times Op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof points out, leaders around the globe, including the President Obama, are paying their respects to Mandela now but did not honor him when he needed their support in his struggle for democracy in Apartheid South Africa. Similarly, numerous political activists today are persecuted and imprisoned for advocating human rights in their countries while the U.S. government happily conducts business with their oppressive leaders.

As an example, Nabeel Rajab, head of the Center for Human Rights in Bahrain, is serving a prison sentence of several years for expressing his opinion on the absolute monarchy in Bahrain, and he is not the only one. Pro-democracy uprisings in Bahrain, which began in February 2011, have been forcefully suppressed by the Bahraini government and severely worsened the human rights situation in the country. In an interview prior to his arrest, Rajab stressed that while Bahraini political activists are hoping for support from the international community, they can by no means rely on it. He was proven right insofar as only earlier this month, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Bahrain’s King Hamad Al-Kharifa to celebrate their two countries’ history of alliance and to discuss strategies to secure stability in the region.

Other countries, including China and Ethiopia, have prominent political prisoners that are not unlikely to one day become part of newer and more democratic governments. So while it may not be easy for Obama to balance human rights support and security or trade interests with some countries, it is important for him – as well as for other current leaders – to remember Mandela’s struggle and be supportive of those that are going to be democratic leaders in the future.

Article written by:
Jonathan Lutes
South Africa USA