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Nelson Mandela: leadership and reconciliation

06 Dec 2013 - 16:26
Bron: UN Photo/John Isaac
South Africa and the world are struck by the announcement of Nelson Mandela’s death. The dominant feeling is of course emotion and sadness for this great loss, but there is also a sense of thankfulness for his inspiration, wisdom and leadership. He was the symbol for the fight against apartheid and as such a source of inspiration for people combating racism and oppression all over the world.
 
What is striking about him was his capacity to act as a “bridge-builder” after spending 27 years of his life in jail. He turned out to be the real combatant fighting for national reconciliation in a deeply divided South Africa. 
 
But there is also another Nelson Mandela: the sharp negotiator who never gave up his ideal of a new democratic South Africa. He could make use of his natural authority and exceptional competences to break through negotiations, both during and after his presidency, and not only in South Africa but also in other conflict-affected areas across the continent. 
 
In 1992, I received the request from Nelson Mandela to train ANC members at Clingendael to prepare them for their future careers as South African diplomats. In 1993-94, the first generation of diplomats from the new South Africa was thus trained in The Hague, with the support of the Dutch government. One of the most memorable events during that training was a meeting with Nelson Mandela in February 1994, which left a strong impression on the group of trainees and myself.  It was both an honor and a privilege to have as such contributed a small stone to his quest for reconciliation and his founding of a new South Africa.