Africa: Mandela & Africa on Iraq, 02/06/03

Africa: Mandela & Africa on Iraq, 02/06/03

AFRICA ACTION Africa Policy E-Journal February 6, 2003 (030206)

Africa: Mandela & Africa on Iraq (Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains last week's statement by Nelson Mandela on the threat of war in Iraq, and excerpts from two related articles, one a commentary from Nigeria and the other an article on the anti-war initiatives by South Africa's Ambassador at the United Nations, Dumisani Kumalo. As the article notes, Ambassador Kumalo was a key figure in the grassroots divestment campaign against apartheid while based at the ACOA/Africa Fund in New York in the 1980s, two of the predecessor organizations of Africa Action.] Notably, the U.S. anti-war movement today includes a similar strategy, as over 60 U.S. cities - including San Francisco, Chicago, and Baltimore - have adopted anti-war resolutions. Africa Action is proud of the role being played today by Ambassador Kumalo.

The exceptionally strong statement by the former South African president came as the U.S. push towards war continued to accelerate, and reflected widely held views in Africa, around the world, and among large numbers of Americans. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, while finding his fellow Nobel Prize winner's remarks "excessive," stressed that they reflected views that should lead U.S. leaders to reflect on the "doubt and consternation" caused by U.S. policies.

The African Union, meeting in Addis Ababa on February 3, also made a statement on Iraq, reiterating the need go give diplomatic efforts more time to work.

U.S. groups involved in planning anti-war actions on February 15 include United for Peace and Justice ( and Black Voices for Peace ( Black Voices for Peace is headed by Damu Smith, who served as executive director of the Washington Office on Africa and the Washington Office on Africa Educational Fund (WOAEF) in the late 1980s. WOAEF became the Africa Policy Information Center, and is now also part of Africa Action.

[Meanwhile, new details are emerging as journalists and activists examine President Bush's budget commitments on HIV/AIDS. The Boston Globe reported on February 5 that for 2004 the administration is offsetting part of the new AIDS commitment with proposed cuts of $191 million in other international health accounts. According to the Global AIDS Alliance, the White House is also now pressuring U.S. Senators to reduce total AIDS authorization for 2004 from $2.5 billion to $2 billion, and to keep support for the Global Fund at current low levels of $200 million a year. For an earlier Africa Action statement on the President's announcement, see]

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Mandela Blasts U.S. Policy Toward Iraq January 30, 2003

By Nelson Mandela

Sandton, South Africa

Former South African President Nelson Mandela strongly criticised U.S. policy toward Iraq in a speech delivered Thursday to the International Women's Forum meeting in Sandton, South Africa. The speech, on the theme of Courageous Leadership for Global Transformation, was recorded by SABC. What follows are excerpts from that speech.

It's a tragedy what is happening, what Bush is doing. All Bush wants is Iraqi oil. There is no doubt that the U.S. is behaving badly. Why are they not seeking to confiscate weapons of mass destruction from their ally Israel? This is just an excuse to get Iraq's oil.

We have not had world wars in 57 years, and it is because of the United Nations. We should condemn both [British Prime Minister Tony] Blair and Bush and let them know in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is wrong. Other international countries like France and Russia must influence the United Nations to condemn what he [Bush] is doing.

Bush is now undermining the United Nations. He is acting outside it, not withstanding the fact that the United Nations was the idea of President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Both Bush, as well as Tony Blair, are undermining an idea which was sponsored by their predecessors. They do not care. Is it because the secretary-general of the United Nations [Ghanaian Kofi Annan] is now a black man? [APPLAUSE] They never did that when secretary-generals were white.

What is the lesson of them acting outside the United Nations? Are they saying any country which believes that they will not be able to get the support of the countries with a veto [in the United Nations] are entitled to go outside the United Nations and to ignore it? Or are they saying we, the United States, are the only superpower in the world now, [so] we can act as we like? Are they saying this is a lesson we should follow or are they saying 'we are special, what we do should not be done by anybody [else]?'

If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. [APPLAUSE] They don't care for human beings. Fifty-seven years ago, when Japan was retreating on all fronts, they decided to drop the atom bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; killed a lot of innocent people, who are still suffering the effects of those bombs.

Those bombs were not aimed against the Japanese, they were aimed against the Soviet Union to say, 'look, this is the power that we have. If you dare oppose what we do, this is what is going to happen to you'. Because they are so arrogant, they decided to kill innocent people in Japan, who are still suffering from that.

Who are they, now, to pretend that they are the policemen of the world? [APPLAUSE] To want to decide for the people in Iraq what they should do with their government and with their leadership?

If this is done by the United Nations, if the United Nations says that 'Saddam Hussein is not carrying out the resolutions of the United Nations, therefore we the United Nations are going to take action,' I will support that without reservation. [APPLAUSE]

What I am condemning is that one power, with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, [LAUGHTER] is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust. I am happy that the people of the world - especially those of the United States of America - are standing up and opposing their own president.

I hope that that opposition will one day make him understand that he has made the greatest mistake of his life in trying to bring about carnage and to police the world, without any authority of the international body. It is something we have to condemn without reservation.

I only hope that the people of the United States will make Bush aware that he has made a big mistake to want to surpass the global body, the United Nations, whose ideals are to bring peace and eradicate wars.

The people of the U.S. should use their democracy to get rid of him. It is best for the U.S. to use the ballot box and demonstrations to draw attention to the issue. [LOUD AND SUSTAINED APPLAUSE]

And the women at this forum are there to look into these things, to be bold with their leadership and to condemn what is wrong.

And finally, we have of course the question of globalisation in this country. As [the former South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and current CEO of South African Tourism (SATOUR)] Cheryl Carolus has said, somebody who is saying he or she is not going to accept globalisation, is like saying I do not recognise winter, I am not going to put on clothing for winter!

She has put it very well, because what happens today in northern Europe has got an effect on our region the same day. Globalisation is already there, whether we like it or not.

And of course globalisation at the present moment favours the rich and the mighty. We have to fight that. It must favour all human beings, whether in Europe or in Africa. And I'm sure this is the task of this forum to make sure that such irregularities are rectified.

Thank you very much.


Bush And Mandela's Moral Challenge Daily Trust (Abuja) February 3, 2003

By Issa Aremu

[excerpts: full text at]

US President, George W. Bush "has no foresight" and "cannot think properly." And that is official and authoritative. The authoritative verdict is that of Nobel Peace laureate and former South African President, Nelson Mandela. Perhaps there can be no such authority on foresight than Mandela himself who as far back as 1961 when others were blind to see it all declared; "No power on earth can stop an oppressed people determined to win their freedom." His foresight and deep-seated resolve together with that of millions of other compatriots saw South African black people through the tyranny of apartheid, notwithstanding his exceptional singular sacrifice of 27 years in prison. Bush can certainly ignore rhetoric from Iraq and North Korea to his own chosen war-path but he can only ignore this exceptional moral challenge from Mandela at his own moral peril and consequent political decline.

It is not just that the message comes from Madiba but precisely because true to most of his worthy interventions since retirement (without being tired) the latest from Mandela carries similar words of wisdom meant to rescue humanity form those bent on destroying it.

Take for instance Mandela's charge that Bush lacks foresight. Nothing could be more charitable because yours sincerely thinks that together with lack of foresight the President of the most powerful (not necessarily the most moral) country on earth also lacks benefit of hindsight. When Bush declared that regardless of UN and increasing anti-war global coalition, America would 'go it alone', it was clear that memory is in short memory in Washington. America and indeed any nation cannot go it alone in our ever interdependent world. It is not just about some brute force or brutal power but about a painful reality that we all need each other after all.

In late August 2001, Bush and his arrogant and ignorant team ignored the world opinion and boycotted Durbar UN conference on Racism and Xenophobia on the account and assumption that America could go it alone and disregard resolutions that were not favourable to its positions with regards to Israel and Palestine. It was a great paradox that a month after, in the wake of September 11 terror attacks, America actually needed the world than the world needed it! All of a sudden, American unilateralism gave way to world multilateralism as the world rose in solidarity to condemn terrorism and join US in solidarity and support with Africa inclusive.



Sunday Times - South Africa Feb. 2, 2003

[excerpts: for full text visit Sunday Times website]

Our man shakes up the UN

South Africa's ambassador has led a spirited campaign against the US going to war, writes Justice Malala

It is an icy Wednesday morning in New York and Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, South Africa's ambassador to the United Nations, is running again.

He has just been told that an important vote is about to take place in the UN General Assembly, and he rushes out of his office, jumps into a car and gets dropped off at the UN headquarters. ...

Kumalo has become one of the most important and powerful politicians in the UN. Although acknowledged across the spectrum as popular and hardworking since his appointment in April 1999, respect for him has grown with the crisis surrounding Iraq.

Kumalo, representing South Africa as leader of the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union, essentially opposed the US by requesting that debates on Iraq take place not behind the closed doors of the 15-member UN Security Council but in the General Assembly, where all countries could take part.

He made it possible for the world to express its views on the US's intention to attack Iraq. Until Kumalo's intervention in October, the debate had been limited to the ambassadors of the US, Russia, China, Britain and France. No longer.

"We cannot dictate to the Security Council. But we, as UN member states, do have the right to have our views expressed before them, so they know how we feel about this particular issue," Kumalo said at the time.

The debate led to so many countries expressing outrage at the prospect of war that UN weapons inspectors were dispatched to Iraq with the world assured, at least for the time being, that they would be allowed to do their work.

The debate also gave notice to the US that the world disapproved of its belligerence.

Last week, when UN inspection leaders Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei reported back to the UN, Kumalo had managed to ensure that their report was available to all members of the UN, not just the Security Council.

His interventions have led to acknowledgement that the debate on the "war on terror" has many sides, and that developing countries can raise a voice against wars that have the potential to devastate them. "All we have done as South Africa is prove that you do not need to be in the Security Council to contribute to international peace and security. We have forced the only public debate on Iraq, where more than 100 countries spoke," Kumalo says.

Organisations like the UN were founded to preserve peace, not support wars, he says, lamenting the fact that the organisation's work is largely bureaucratic. The UN needs to focus more on "helping poor people", he says.

"That is why it would be a shame if there is a war. Think of our neighbours in Africa. If this war goes on it means the price of oil goes through the roof. It is not the petrol that people think about. It is the poor people who rely on paraffin who will suffer. It will be the farmers who rely on diesel," he says.

"If paraffin goes up 50 cents a litre, then it will wipe out a lot of people because we are going into winter in our part of the world. War for us is a non-starter."

But tackling the US does not mean Kumalo is unaware of what the US and Britain, supported by other countries, might decide to do. He acknowledges that war may indeed be imminent.

After US President George W Bush's speech this week indicating that war may come soon, Kumalo said: "I am a perpetual optimist. I think that war can be avoided. You can't work in the UN and be about war.

"The US may still end up going to war, but I hope we allow the international ways of dealing with issues to prevail. The truth is we are talking about the world's only superpower and if they decide to attack Iraq then they certainly can do so. Nobody can stop them. We just wish and hope that they will consider that other people around the world think otherwise."

Throughout Kumalo's interventions in the UN, he has kept up his wit and charm, and he gives the impression that he is always having fun. His style is a mixture of the Left-leaning intellectual and the street-smart township boy, essentially a diplomat who knows how to fight - and how far he can take a fight.

His large frame and booming voice make his presence felt at gatherings, and his laugh is a fixture in the corridors of the UN. His colleagues at the world organisation say the friendly exterior hides a man whose commitment to President Thabo Mbeki's vision of a united and prosperous developing world is unshakeable.

His toughness was apparent in his life before the UN. After working as a journalist for the Sunday Times, Drum and The World, Kumalo fled into exile in the US in 1977. He dedicated his life to campaigning against apartheid.

While in New York, he was attached to the ANC's UN mission, interacting with the Special Committee Against Apartheid. Kumalo also served as projects director of the Africa Fund, a US non-governmental organisation that spurred more than 30 states, 400 universities and scores of cities to remove their pension funds from US banks and companies that were doing business with the apartheid regime.

During that time, Kumalo and others picketed the South African mission to the UN so regularly and ferociously that it moved to a residential area (where US law prohibits demonstrations) just to avoid him. Today, he sits in the office where, in the 1980s, a letter was written to him saying he was not welcome back home in South Africa because of his picketing.

Kumalo returned to South Africa to vote in the first democratic election, and in the UN there is a postcard showing him leading Soweto residents to vote on April 27 1994.

In 1997, he returned to South Africa more permanently to head the Department of Foreign Affairs' US desk. In April 1999 he accepted the job of ambassador to the UN.

Kumalo believes the UN is one of the most difficult diplomatic postings because one deals with a plethora of issues, not just one country and its laws.

On Wednesday morning he dealt with issues and delegates from Rwanda, Britain, the Palestinian Authority and the US - and that doesn't count those who stopped him in the corridors of the UN.

His deep opposition to the proposed war on Iraq may give the impression that he is against the US, but Kumalo says he is sympathetic to Americans' feelings, particularly about the September 11 terrorist attacks. For years he worked across the street from the World Trade Center at the American Committee on Africa and spent a lot of time in the twin towers.

On September 11 he had intended to go to the World Trade Center to buy a pair of shoes (he buys all his shoes at the same shop because his feet are wide and most shoes are narrow), but his wife's flight from South Africa was delayed so he did not go.

Waiting at the office, he saw fire coming out of the first tower and saw the second aircraft hit. "To me the events of that day had a personal effect. I personally knew many people who worked in there, who died there.

"I used to do everything at the World Trade Center. It was a personal shock, and a shock for everyone else.

"So the US was woken up to the fact that terrorism touches everyone. The challenge for them is how to respond. The disadvantage that the US faces is that it is a major power. It is like an elephant: when it reacts the people on the receiving end experience it as an avalanche.

"The US has the right to defend itself. The only thing we are saying is that in defending itself we must not break the norms and rules that the international community has agreed to," he says.

Asked if the onus is not on the Iraqis to produce the weapons they are allegedly hoarding, Kumalo says: "Maybe there is nothing there. It is also good to know that there is nothing, because that means we must leave the sanctions and allow the people of Iraq to rebuild their country.

"That is precisely the point: for the inspectors to go and find whatever there is and destroy it. The state we are all shooting for is a state of nothing, no weapons of mass destruction."

The Iraq debate has put a spotlight on the effectiveness of the UN as an institution and many commentators have asked what the future holds for it if the US decides, unilaterally, to go to war. For Kumalo, who is one of the facilitators of a committee to revitalise the UN, the challenge is to make its General Assembly more powerful.

"This whole Iraq issue is being handled only in the Security Council, but it is really an issue which should be in the General Assembly and be dealt with by the 191 members. Unfortunately for us, the assembly is not at the strength where it can deal with such issues," he says.

"If the UN were really about doing its work, then it would be dealing with issues of poverty and underdevelopment. Those are the issues the UN should be about. War only adds to misery."

Kumalo's efforts at the UN mean he is always in demand, always on the move between meetings and speeches and functions.

But these days everyone at the UN knows that when the man who is always running stops to talk about Iraq, a lot of important people stop to reflect. And that includes the leaders of the world's most powerful country, the United States of America.

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Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Action" <> Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 13:03:08 -0500 Subject: Africa: Mandela & Africa on Iraq

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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