Obama’s, Mandela Address : Perhaps a Missed Opportunity !

         Things he could and should have said –


On December 5th, 2013, arguably one of the world’s noblest sons and perhaps the modern day epitome of humanity exchanged mortality for immortality. The world stood aghast whilst readying to converge to attend the home-going of Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. In record time a 10-day period of mourning to mark his death was announced and by the 5th day, I like many others found myself in Suite 71, earmarked for the accredited religious persons to attend the State Memorial at FNB stadium, South of Johannesburg 


This was an occasion graced by 91 former and present presidents, with an even larger contingent of 103 Governments who also came to pay due honour to Mandela. The list of speakers a crossbreed of friends, foes, enemies, and celebrity politicians honoured to speak on this occasion says more of the mosaic of a Mandela. 


It was on this occasion that Barack H. Obama acted as the first of eight renowned people afforded to speak, the same dovetailed with an epic fulfilment of who Mandela is with the aging Raul Castro of Cuba paying homage to a friend. 


Obama gave without any doubt perhaps the address of the day, in sterling gifted oratory skills and aptitude cloaking this rendition in personalizing his Mandela celebration.


There is no question that he had the crowd salivating for more, and for days after that his speech was discussed argued deliberated  on various platforms of social networks, print media, and television broadcasts. 


We also can forgive him for his ‘selfies’ and maybe Michelle has already forgiven him for his over friendliness to a prime minister Helle Thorning Schmidt who could not waste time to converse, chat, touch and pose with him. After all, he is an ordinary “youngster” at 49 if Mandela’s age is used as barometer, rendering him also a fan of the colossal Mandela.


In the aftermath, we are informed that there is a PHD student Ryan Shapiro who is presently heading to court to force the CIA to reveal or declassify documents admitting its role in the capturing of Mandela at Howick in 1962. 


This and other issues necessitates upon us to ask in this season did Obama not miss an opportunity to set the record straight on perhaps critical issues. Notwithstanding the brilliance of his address, in the world’s favoured accent.


I shall herewith list seven things I have been mulling over which I thought Obama could and should have reflected upon.


1. I thought Obama could have if the involvement of the CIA in Mandela’s capturing in Howick was true, owned up to the fact that the man he and 3 former USA presidents came to honour could potentially had been killed by the work and hand of a previous USA government.


2. I thought Obama could have spared a thought to actualise the grave implications for this act when we consider the USA the bastion of democracy. He perhaps could have deliberated on the challenge of democracy and its fruit, which often do not reflect its values. 


This thinking resonates at another level to solicit acknowledgment that it was a democratically elected USA government that shared in stark contrast to the espoused democratic principles a symbiotic and cosy relationship with an Apartheid state heresy. An apartheid system that had as fundamental axis racism, breathing discrimination and came exemplified in segregation with a resultant effect of the debasement of an African dignity.


That same firstly acknowledged in a common humanity, the founding fathers of the USA thought critical to include in the Declaration of Independence … We hold these truths to be self- evident that all men are created equal….


The USA as a democracy is over 200 years old, therefore the definition of democracy if we seek to make sense of this construct in a greater context it must be accepted it derives a recognised indebtedness to what is often referred to as the West. 


3. I thought Obama could have alluded to the fact that it was USA multinationals and corporates that fought against the cause for which Mandela became the “black pimpernel” in underwriting the discrimination of opportunity and resource for those of darker melanin content.


Therefore and acknowledgement of this at this the demise of his hero, would have been very pragmatic and redeeming.



3. I thought Obama could have referred to the fact that Mandela like so many others until recently still reflected as a terrorist on the intelligence of USA radar. 


Perhaps an acknowledgement of how short-sighted the USA was in not recognising the man to be buried and for which the globe only had personal and collective veneration was served a grave injustice in this fashion by none other than the USA. 


Obama could have taken collective responsibility for this injustice in pragmatism thus fixing the past in establishing a future. After all he was addressing this crowd less as Obama but as Obama the 44th President of the USA.


4. I thought Obama could have spared a moment to reflect on the USA’s role in an Angola –  Namibia (South West Africa back then). We have recently been taken down in an epic journey of reflection from the pen of Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro. This soul-cleansing of rear-view mirror opinion corroborated by facts and names mentioned in his article “Mandela is dead, don’t tell no lies about Apartheid” gives us a perspective less known.


Thus, I thought Obama would engage the nature and actuality of the risks of those engagements  at the time the error of such whilst arguing no different to a Martin Luther King Jr, on Vietnam ‘being a senseless war’. According to the records, the South African apartheid regime was backed by a democratic USA in this instance. 


If anybody was capable of putting the record straight not in narrow defence of USA but in balance of objectivity whilst owning up, this lanky son of a Kenyan Father who brought his shooting – hoop to the White-House was the appropriate candidate.


These are not facts too far removed from any USA president be it in historic precedent or experiential reflection.


5. I thought Obama would on behalf of previous USA administrations apologise to the current ANC and its preceding leaderships for misunderstanding this organisation not as liberation organisation but as a terrorist group. Jogging the memory of this 102-year-old movement in highs and lows with a definitive undeniable reality of being a non-racial organisation could have helped in this celebration of a movement Mandela swore allegiance to beyond his death.


6. Obama’s speech clearly could have acknowledged the fact that the ANC in almost 20 years of democracy upholds and maintains respect for the SA constitution it firstly produced and jealously guards in having shown a maturity to share common space for all in line with the reconciliation mantra of Mandela. He easily could have acknowledged that in 2004, the ANC with a 2/3 majority could have reinterpreted and altered the constitution to legally reflect what some feared possible if the intentions of the ANC were considered ambivalent on democracy. It would have been easy for Obama to acknowledge the maturity of this Movement in consistently engendering the fundamental principles of democracy.


7. I thought Obama could have acknowledged that his ascendance to USA White-House of political power inadvertently and automatically generated expectations justifiably and sentimentally in hopes from fellow Africans on a desired change in USA diplomacy as that which respects the legacy of a Mandela and his ilk evident in a greater sensitivity for Africa.


It appears whenever Obama addresses Africans it is to lecture them from a veiled place of aloofness. The one key interview with SABC anchor man in Washington Sherwin Bryce-Peace, confirmed this assertion.



The ‘black’ 44th President of the USA identifies easily with the power to pronounce on the thematic narrative of corruption which is justified, yet in the words of and emerging thinker  “…Obama’ the African Fathered-Son wrestles to come home to walk in barefoot embrace of Africa in admitting the concomitant wrongs and evils committed by the West…” (Niklos – CNSR)


There must be something worth questioning when Obama as the 44th President of the USA can lecture Africans and yet as an African cannot identify with Africans in this that Africa remains abused by the toxic concoction of Euro-USA self-interest. 



These constitute perhaps the aspects lending legitimacy on the claim of a definitive missed opportunity the 44th and First African President of the USA shared. 


Though we cannot yet confirm the research on the CIA involvement as advanced by a the PHD – student Ryan Shapiro, we remain vigilant to follow the outcome of this as one of the many things Barack Hussein Obama could have included in his address when Rolihlala Mandela was laid to rest. The ocassion called for more than great oratory skills, it called for an admission of wrong on the part of the USA in defiance of the ethic of a Mandela. Maybe we never will hear these admissions ever in history to come, for the best opportunity to engage these were lost and now registers a missed opportunity.


Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

Social Commentator






This entry was posted in Obama.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s