Address by Nelson Mandela on accepting an Honourary Doctorate at the Sheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar

30 June 1992

Esteemed Rector of the University,
Professors and staff,
Students and workers,

Distinguished members of the Gvernment and representatives of the broad masses of the people of Senegal:

We are indeed humbled by the distinction you have just bestowed on us by awarding us and honourary doctorate of the University of Dakar named after Sheikh Anta Diop.

We accept this honour both in my own name but also in the name of my colleagues with whom I served many years in prison and on behalf of the millions of our people who have upheld the banner of freedom, truth, human dignity and the integrity of the African people throughout our continent and in the Diaspora.

We say this because we know that you did not want to honour us alone, you intended this award to be your own affirmation of your support for our common cause and our common struggle for the total destruction of the hated apartheid system and the restoration of the dignity and humanity of all black people everywhere.

This is however a centre of learning, from it must come men and women who must serve Africa's cause, using the talents with which they were born, exploiting the knowledge that they will have accumulated at this university and remaining true to the spirit of patriotism and public service which must inspire Africa's intelligentsia, if this intelligentsia must make its contribution to the renaissance of our continent.

All of Africa we are still engaged in a process which will and must lead to the political emancipation of our people. We are engaged in a struggle to give the people the right to determine their destiny.

Strange as it might seem, given that we are approaching the end of the second millennium, we are still striving to ensure that everybody has a right to vote and a right to participate in the process of governing our country, without regard to race, colour or gender.

We are fighting to end a malignant racist system which treated some of the citizens of our country as human beings, others as half-human and the rest as non-persons the new Africa could not be born while such a criminal.

Equally, Africa cannot be re-born while millions of her children die as a result of hunger, disease and poverty.

Africa cannot be-reborn while its institutions of government do not respect the entitlement of all citizens to all basic human rights, including the right to life itself.

Africa cannot be re-born while it has not yet created the means and the mechanisms which enable its people to resolve their disputes between and among themselves, by discussion and dialogue rather than resort to weapons of war, or the batons and bullets of law-enforcement agencies and the handcuffs of the jailer.

Africa cannot be re-born while it does not enjoy the flight from wonder which Albert Einstein defined as the essence of knowledge.

The flight from wonder is what this university is about. By imparting to its student the accumulated store of knowledge derived from the universal human intellect and experience, it helps those students, this country and our continent as a whole to move away from a condition of lesser comprehension of the universe and human society to their better understanding.

That act empowerment enables them and all of us not only to interpret the world but also to change it, and this is precisely what all our lives should all be about.

They should be about changing our physical and human environment for the better, and to you, students, teachers, researchers and workers at this university and all other centres of higher learning on our continent, falls the task of spearheading the intellectual inquiry out of which must come the practical and practicable ideas whose implementation will lead to Africa's re-birth.

To carry out this task successfully, it is of great importance that you should not be afraid to search for new answers. Like Galileo Galilei and other European intellectuals of old you should not be afraid, so to speak, to be burn at the stake because of your pursuit of knowledge and the truth.

Some of that truth may hurt those of us who exercise political power. But in the end it is the truth, the movement away from false and sterile orthodoxy, the progression from wonder to enlightenment that will provide the incubus out of which the new Africa will emerge.

As freedom fighters we have had to discover these truths in struggle. The act of emancipation from colonial and white minority domination is itself and act of discovery. Suddenly the oppressed and downtrodden discover they too can govern a country, that they can build and manage its economy and that they can set it on a path of development which the erstwhile masters swore was impossible to attain.

Therefore that act of discovery by the people is to the oppressor an act of hereby, literally punishable by death, torture and imprisonment. And yet freedom cannot be achieved unless those who seek it and deserve it are prepared to sustain the pain and horror of death, torture and imprisonment because they understand that without this liberation is impossible.

We say all this to make a commitment to you as the stakeholder at this University and the citizens of this great country that we too, as Honourary Graduates of the University, will strive to live according to these precepts, to value to truth and at all times to strive to propagate it, for the betterment of our people as a whole and for their upliftment to the very pinnacle of human civilisation.

In South Africa, your fellow Africans, be they black or white, are inspired by the same sentiments, they wish to lift our country out of the abyss that is represented by the criminal system of apartheid.

They are more than ever determined to overcome all obstacles to ensure that they liberate themselves sooner than later.

Frightened at the prospect of the victory of the perspective of a democratic, non-racial an non-sexist society, the forces of reaction have unleashed a campaign of terror against the people that our country has never seen.

Gruesome murders are carried out by the regime security forces under the cover of darkness and in the light of day. This callous campaign is carried out of terrorised the people into submission, to oblige the masses to accept that the pain of seeking fundamental change is so unbearable that it would be better that they acquiesce to the perpetuation of white minority domination.

This will no be the more the violence perpetrated against the people, the stronger the conviction of these masses that they regime of racism and terror must be removed without delay.

We can assert this without fear of contradiction that nothing the regime does will stop our people advancing to their liberation, nothing the regime of terror does can save it from destruction and its consignment to the dustbin of history.

The only question that remains to be answered is when the day of liberation will dawn! Shall it be tomorrow or shall it be the day after, it shall certainly be sooner rather than later, the day of freedom is at hand.

Let us therefore stay the course together as comrades in the common struggle so that we can, together, celebrate the common victory and together, rebuild our continent from the Cape to Cairo, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, so that in the end our people can together stride the globe as signified human beings, proud of their antecedents, their colour, their culture, their achievements and their humanity.

We thank you for the honour you have done us to give the opportunity to count ourselves as a member of so distinguished an assembly of Africans

Thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation