Mandela sculpture (Nicole Megan Gounder/YJI)
Young Africans from many countries on the continent are grieving the death of Nelson Mandela, a man who left public life when many of them were still children but still managed to impart lessons.
Kabagambe Moses, 23, of Kampala, Uganda (Photo provided)
“He inspired people of all colors, races and nationalities. His death presents a challenge to us all to bring out the best of us to attain a more equal world for all,” said 23-year-old Kabagambe Moses of Kampala, Uganda.
“He was a good leader,” said Cornelius Vincent, 22, of Lafia, Nigeria. “His legacy is there for us to imitate.”
From Accra, Ghana, 23-year-old Clifford Oppong, said, “The summary of Mandela’s life is humility and forgiveness. He taught us all to be forgiving.”
Though they were babies when the anti-apartheid hero made history by becoming the first democratically elected black president of South Africa, they said this week that they were shocked when he died December 5 at age 95.
Christian Emeka of Lomé, Togo (Photo provided).
“Mandela left enormous examples for his people and for Africans at large,” said Christian Emeka, a student of philosophy at the Higher Institute of Philosophy and Human Science in Lomé, Togo.
“I personally describe the enormity of his examples in five terms: life of sacrifice, selfless services, principled life, courage and determination,” Emeka said.
Emeka and other young people from Ghana, Uganda, South Africa and Nigeria, now mostly in their early 20s, shared their thoughts and feelings about Mandela, a man they said left an important legacy.
Layinah Peterson, 20, of Cape Town, South Africa (Photo provided)
“He may have closed his eyes, but he has opened the eyes of the world,” said Layinah Peterson, a 20-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa.
“He was a principled man,” Emeka said. “He practiced politics with high esteem for ethics. He offered selfless services to his people.”
Joash Naidoo, 22, of Durban, South Africa (Photo provided)
Joash Naidoo, 22, of Durban, South Africa, said his country “will forever be indebted” to Mandela for all he did for South Africa.
“Nelson Mandela is a symbol of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world where these two virtues are minimal,” said Moses.
In Johannesburg, South Africa, 24-year-old Olisha Naicker called Mandela a “global icon.” She said his teachings will live forever.
After word came of Mandela’s death on December 5, Oppong said that in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, people were seen spreading their versions of Mandela’s life.
“Here in my hostel, we organized Madiba Night,” said Oppong. “We chanted great African tributes to the great Mandela and performed spoken words on themes concerning Nelson Mandela.”
In Lomé, Togo, Emeka said that many residents shared his feelings of sadness.
“The people here received the news with mixed feelings,” Emeka said. “They see his departure as a very painful one.”
Olisha Niacker, 24, of Johannesburg, South Africa (Photo provided)
Kabagambe Moses, 23, of Kampala, Uganda, said the reaction to Mandela’s death was as if a sitting president had died, not a man who had been retired from public life for a decade.
“On learning of his death, people around East Africa texted family and friends,” said Moses.
Clifford Oppong, 23, of Accra, Ghana (Photo provided)
While he was shocked when he learned of Mandela’s death, Emeka said he realized upon reflection that he should be happy and remain thankful to God for Mandela’s life as it was well spent.
Oppong said he was saddened by Mandela’s death, explaining that he couldn’t bring himself to think “that the rest of the days will pass without Mandela.”
Mandela’s name clearly still rests on the lips of African youth who already miss him. It is clear they will not soon forget the inspiration he gave.
“A great tree has fallen. I miss him!” said Vincent.
Linus Okechukwu Unah and Nicole Megan Gounder are Reporters for Youth Journalism International. Unah reported for YJI from Lafia, Nigeria and Gounder from Durban, South Africa.
And such comments could be heard the world over.
He really was a light.