Address by President Nelson Mandela on presenting the Africa Peace Award to the nation of Mozambique, Durban

1 November 1997

Master of Ceremony, Your Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini;
Your Excellency President Chissano;
Your Excellency Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the OAU;
Honourable Ministers;
Premier Ben Ngubane and Members of the Provincial Cabinet;
Ladies and gentlemen,

We are here tonight, in our own humble way, to celebrate the African Renaissance. The time for Africa's renewal, for our continent to occupy the pedestal of the successful, has come to pass. Africa yearns and deserves to redeem her glory; to reassert her centuries-old contribution to economics, politics, culture and th arts; and once more to be a pioneer in the many fields of human endeavour.

The possibility for us to achieve this lies in the African heart and mind. It resides in the determination to let our humanity flourish in the search for justice, peace and social development.

Tonight we meet to celebrate an African achievement. The pulsating drums of our joy express our appreciation for a people who have risen like a phoenix from the ashes of war to become a symbol of peace, tranquility and rapid economic development.

Such are the people of Mozambique. And if we shout our voices hoarse in their praise, it is because we see in them a mirror image of ourselves as a continent: a microcosm of the endeavours that contain within them the possibility to make Africa great once more.

As we find ourselves on the threshold of a new millennium, and as we traverse our way to a new and desired world order, challenges and opportunities facing nations and indeed the international community, are destined to be many and varied.

Primary among these obstacles which punctuate our march towards placing Africa at the centre of developments, is the prevalence of conflicts in parts of our continent. We do acknowledge that great progress has been made towards justice, peace and democracy on the African continent. Indeed, it is this trend that characterises African political dynamics today.

But one destabilising conflict anywhere on the continent is one too many. And our task, as African peoples and leaders, is not to decry the negative; but to seize opportunities that beckon. This is the essence of our celebration tonight.

On the continent, numerous positive initiatives promise not only to bring an end to conflict; but also, where possible, to prevent it. The continuing work of the Conflict Management Unit of our continental organisation the OAU, is a remarkable achievement that we can all be proud of. The resolve of sub-regional organisations like SADC, ECOWAS and IGAD to deal with conflict in their respective sub-regions is a sign of hope.

The relative success that we have attained in Southern Africa vindicates our belief that conflicts can and must be resolved peacefully through dialogue.

It also underlines the need to root our search for peace and stability on democratic forms of governments. For as long as the majority of people anywhere on the continent feel oppressed, are not allowed democratic participation in decision-making processes, and cannot elect their own leaders in free and fair elections, there will always be tension and conflict. For as long as legitimate bodies of opinion feel stifled, vile minds will take advantage of justifiable grievances to destroy, to kill and to maim.

Lack of good governance and democracy is in itself a destabilising factor. The initiatives of the OAU, supported by bodies such as ACCORD, to establish an early-warning mechanism and the shift from conflict-management to conflict-prevention should be enhanced by the democratisation of our political systems. Above all, they should be underpinned by joint efforts to create a just and equitable world economic order; an environment which affords African peoples the opportunity and wherewithal to better their lives without the often suffocating dictates of those who command international economic power.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

It is a matter of proud record that more and more leaders on our continent are taking up the challenge of the new age. Personally, I have been particularly pleased by the eagerness of many of our Presidents to make their good offices available for the brokering of peace in conflict situations.

Indeed, Africa has what it takes to make her dream of revival come true. We are rising from the ashes of war.

Tonight's occasion is proof of this. The people of Mozambique assisted by regional and international partners, are rebuilding a country once ravaged beyond recognition by prolonged conflict.

It is the irony of history that the 1992 Rome Accord which ushered in a new era for Mozambique and our sub-region, has faded in the public mind and seems decades away. Such is the harvest of success; that the fruit we reap is soon taken for granted.

Today we dare to remind ourselves of the devastation wrought by what was essentially apartheid's war of attrition. We dare to acknowledge the magnanimity and co-operation of the leaders of the Mozambican government and the opposition, all of whom played a vital role in bringing about a triumph that is as Mozambican as it is African.

At the pinnacle of the success are the Mozambican people. For, as leaders, we are only the facilitators of peace. It is the people of our nations who, through their courage, commitment and efforts translate our political initiatives into practical deeds.

President Chissano:

Your initiatives and the co-operation of Mr Alfonso Dhlakama, and indeed the backing of the Mozambican people, deserve praise and acknowledgement. Only history can record the greatness of your gestures. Let future generations in Mozambique and all Africa recognise your nation as one of true African patriots. It is hard to find words to commend your courage and determination.

But what we do know is that your children and their children will sing your praises far into the future.

And what we can commit ourselves to, as your neighbours, is that we will not waver in our determination to battle along with you against poverty in our region; we shall spare neither strength nor effort in the great task of reconstruction; we shall forever extend our hand of friendship and co-operation, across the miles, to promote the peace and prosperity that our peoples deserve.

From the bottom of my heart, it is my esteemed honour to confer on the nation of Mozambique the 1997 African Peace Award.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website