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( – The world has been inundated with media coverage of Nelson Mandela since he passed away on Thursday evening, December 5, 2013. There was a tremendous outpouring of praise and kind words about his leadership, character, and contribution to the world.  


However, conspicuously absent and neglected in the coverage was Mandela’s friendship with leaders and individuals who the Western world frowned on and had political problems with. Leaders who “Madiba”–as Mandela is also called–stood firm with on the principle that no county, no party and no individual will dictate to him who his   friends and associates should be or who he should have solidarity with.

According to people who attended Mandela’s swearing-in ceremony on May 10, 1994, as the first Black president of South Africa, the loudest cheers from the crowd was directed at Cuban leader Fidel Castro and the late Brother Leader Muammar Gadhafi of Libya. Hypocritically the Western nations are now embracing and speaking of the greatness of Nelson Mandela but in the past have always attempted to find a way for him to distance his friends; especially those friends they deemed terrorists, communists or trouble makers. One example was with the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, National Representative of the Nation of Islam in America. During a 1996 World Friendship Tour after the Million Man March, Minister Farrakhan made a visit to South Africa. He was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo–then called Zaire–meeting with its former president Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko when a message came that Nelson Mandela would receive Minister Farrakhan.

Those who follow dynamics on the African continent will remember this was the period of time when President Mobutu was kicked under the bus after serving America and the West as a faithful puppet, even in their fight to uphold the apartheid regime that was oppressing and killing Black people in South Africa.  

To show the character and how Mandela was principled, when Minister Farrakhan could not keep the schedule President Mandela requested because of a problem with our plane, President Mandela adjusted his schedule and waited to receive Minister Farrakhan.

We had received reports that those around President Mandela, including some of his top advisors, did not want him to meet the Muslim leader. Minister Farrakhan and President Mandela had an excellent private meeting at his home in the Houghton District of Johannesburg. When they emerged from their meeting in front of the world press, Nelson Mandela said, “We did not find anything that we disagreed on.” President Mandela was gracious, warm and very respectful of the work Minister Farrakhan was doing in America and worldwide.  

It was clear that his principled position and character was not new.  

In a nationally televised town hall meeting with Mandela at New York’s City College on June 21, 1990 hosted by famed journalist Ted Koppel, Mandela was questioned about his relationship with Fidel Castro of Cuba, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Mandela retorted, your enemies are not necessarily my enemies, dismissing the idea of those relationships as a common “mistake” of subjective political analysts. Mr. Mandela refused to compromise on   African National Congress solidarity with its historical friends, demonstrating character and principle, comradeship and loyalty to those who helped the struggle he led for self determination. As for the American government, it has been exposed that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence departments assisted the repressive apartheid regime of South Africa in apphrending Nelson Mandela.

I am hoping that America could show character and take a principled position by apologizing to Mandela, the African National Congress and the South African people for years of taking an unprincipled position in supporting the racist apartheid regime that caused millions of Black people to suffer and die.

(A. Akbar Muhammad can be reached at [email protected])