‘Mandela Encouraged Me to Accept the Challenge’

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Liberia’s Peace Ambassador, George M. Weah, has described the late first black President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, as a fallen tower that Africa and the world cannot easily rebuild, given his unrelenting fight for social justice.

Ambassador Weah said Mandela entered prison in 1962, and left after 27 years — not with hate, but as a reformer with love, irrespective of race, class, gender, religion, age, or social-economic status.

Mr. Weah, the Congress for Democratic Change’s (CDC) political leader, made the assertions Tuesday, December 10, in a tribute to the fallen hero at the Memorial and Reflection Service for the late Mandela. The service took place at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia.

Ambassador Weah said that the former South African anti-apartheid fighter was an eminent statesman, a man of peace and an advocate for social justice. He noted that for Mandela, the struggle against apartheid was not for the supremacy of one group of people over the other; instead, it was a universal struggle for social justice, freedom, and equality for all, unlike that of most freedom fighters in Africa at the time.

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African People. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination,” Weah quoted the late Mandela as saying during the famous Rivonia Trial that led to his conviction in 1964, for his resistance to Apartheid.

He continued Mandela’s quote: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

Reflecting on Mandela’s struggle for peace in South Africa and in Liberia, Ambassador Weah revealed that the life and philosophy of Nelson Mandela inspired the search for peace during the dark days in this country.

“The late Nelson Mandela personally and often, quietly intervened to resolve problems that would have otherwise prolonged Liberians’ suffering,” Ambassador Weah said.

The 1995 FIFA Best Player and former skipper of the Lone Star of Liberia said he was humbled to meet the former South Africa President in 1996, two years after his election as South Africa’s President.

“He welcomed me warmly and jokingly cautioned me not to be intimidated by his presence. That’s the kind of person he was…he was a soft, gentle, loving, caring and a kind, father figure,” Amb. Weah intoned.

He also revealed that when he was appointed as Peace Ambassador, the late Nelson Mandela’s advice contributed to his acceptance of the challenge.

“Mr. Mandela encouraged me to see the appointment as both an opportunity and a public service to my country and its people,” Weah explained.

“I will ways cherish his memories and friendship…farewell Baba, Madiba, Tata, Nelson Rolihlahla. May our ancestors accompany you through you journey home…may the angels open wide the gates of Heaven for you and the Good Lord, God the Most High, receive you with gladness,” he petitioned.

Concluding his remarks, Ambassador Weah urged everyone — himself and subsequent generations included — to be guided by the standards the late Mandela set for the acceptance of differences and the maintenance of peace in human affairs. 

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