President Paul Kagame has sent his condolences to the family of former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, saying the late anti-apartheid hero represented “much of what is remarkable about the human spirit.”
The President has also ordered that Rwandan flags be lowered to half-mast from today through Sunday, the day when the global icon will be laid to rest.
“At this difficult time of mourning, I wish to extend, together with the government and people of Rwanda, our heartfelt condolences to your family, and the nation as a whole,” Kagame wrote in a letter to the bereaved family.
Mandela passed on last Thursday after months of illness and leaders from around the world will be attending his memorial service in Johannesburg today. He died at age 95.
Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi and the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) Secretary General Francois Ngarambe will lead the Rwandan delegation to the ceremony.
The Embassy of South African in Kigali will also be opened this week to give an opportunity to Rwandans to give a eulogy in the Condolence Book.
This can be done between 9am and 3pm until December 15.
President Kagame, who earlier penned a tribute to the fallen statesman in Friday’s Time magazine edition that appeared just hours after news of the passing of Mandela broke, said the former prisoner-turned-president represented “the courage to confront injustice and affronts to human dignity.”
The late Mandela had “the vision needed to unite a fractured society, and the humility evidenced in always pointing to a cause greater than himself and refusing the moral pedestal that he could have been offered,” Kagame said in the letter to the Mandela family.
Pride as a virtue
In addition, the Head of State said, because of his example, millions in South Africa, and the continent at large, felt a strong sense of pride and, in particular, saw that forgiveness is not a show of weakness, but actually one of strength, allowing people to move forward with their lives in a dignified manner.
“Rwandans have lived this specific experience, and will remember with great respect the personal sacrifice that Mandela made for the unity of his fellow South Africans,” the letter reads in part.
But Kagame told the bereaved family that it was also a moment to celebrate the “inspiring legacy” of a man who spent nearly a third of his lifetime in an apartheid prison for leading a campaign against the segregation of black South Africans.
“Although the loss is a painful one, allow us to join you also in celebrating his life and inspiring legacy – one that will live on for generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and may this great son of Africa rest in peace,” the President added.
Interactions with Mandela
In his Time eulogy of the first post-Apartheid South African president, Kagame talked of his past interactions with Mandela whom he said was always uncomfortable with the near-sainthood status he enjoyed around the world.
“There is no doubting Mandela’s virtues as a moral exemplar and inspirational figure. There is no modern leader who has done more to deserve the waves of praise and mourning that his passing has unleashed,” the President wrote in the US publication.
At the time Mandela was being inaugurated as the first democratically elected South African leader in April 1994, Rwanda was tragically descending into the Genocide against the Tutsi, which would be halted by then Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) rebel movement in July that year.
Mandela, whom his family described as “a humble, caring man” who had fought for both political and spiritual freedom, will be laid to rest at his home village of Qunu on Sunday, December 15.