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Mandela Will Continue to Inspire Emerging Democracies, Says African Historian

Released: 12/5/2013 4:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Cornell University
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Following Nelson Mandela's death, Judith Byfield, a professor of history at Cornell University focusing on the decolonization of Africa, comments on Nelson Mandela’s lasting legacy.

She says:

“Nelson Mandela was one of the 20th century’s most illustrious figures. Through his writings and his actions, he created a wealth of theories and strategies to consider and modify as we continue the struggles that defined his life.

“While some inside and outside of South Africa questioned decisions made by the Mandela government and its inability to tackle the gross inequities created and sustained under apartheid, his government oversaw the creation of important institutions that established models for other states in Africa and beyond. These include the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in 1994 and the adoption of a new South African Constitution in 1997.

“The South African constitution is hailed as a model that other countries such as Egypt and Tunisia should adopt, as it embraces basic human rights, guarantees equality for all citizens on the basis of sexual orientation and promotes positive socioeconomic rights including rights to healthcare, housing and education. While South Africa continues to struggle to undo the legacies of apartheid, Nelson Mandela helped it move from a nation with one of the most brutal systems of racial oppression to one that offers inspiration.”

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