Monday, 23 December 2013


African communities in Rome last Saturday held a Memorial Service for the former President of South Africa Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
The Memorial Service kicked off at 16:30 at Piazza della Repubblica, where traditional African dances were held in honour of the departed African leader.

The Service was organised by Movimento degli Africani in Italia and Victor Okeadu, Adjunct Councillor of the City Council of Rome, in collaboration with the Embassy of South Africa.

Chief Steve Okey Emejuru, President of Orlu Senatorial Zone Cultural Association of Nigeria (Rome-Lazio), and a group of asylum seekers from Gambia, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria, made sure that all in the square danced to impromptu songs in praise of Mr. Mandela.

The traditional dance session was followed by Holy Mass at the Basilica del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, celebrated by Fr. Valerio Baresi, the Parish Priest.

Fr. Baresi thanked God for enabling the late Mandela to fight so that the world may become a just place, where everyone's human dignity is respected regardless of their race, colour, religion, economic status, etc.

He also thanked God for Mr. Mandela and for all who fight for freedom, justice and respect for all.

The altar was decorated with flowers and branches from South Africa. The choir of the Congolese Parish in Rome sang during the Holy Mass.

“It is bitter sweet indeed, to have lost a man who is surely one of the greatest South Africans to have ever lived, and yet I know that in heaven they welcome the return of a son,” said Ambassador Nomatemba Tambo of the Republic of South Africa in Italy.

In a message read on her behalf by South African Defence Attaché to Italy Col Sibonelo Lembede, Ambassador Tambo described Mr. Mandela as a man whose words were seen in his actions. “After 27 years of incarceration, he did not let it poison him, change his character, or seize him from rising time and time again. He was a man who, when challenged with adversity, did not falter and continued to thrive, not for himself, but for the nation as a whole.”

Ambassador Tambo went on to say that Mr. Mandela “was a man who was inspirational to all, as he fought for the equality of every person living under the African sun, regardless of race, gender, or religion.”

She also praised Mr. Mandela’s exceptional commitment to freedom, peace and reconciliation. “Mandela’s action changed the lives of millions of people. He was known as a “hero”, and “Icon of icons” and as a “giant of the liberation struggle” who dedicated his life to the freedom of the South African people, and once democracy had been achieved, we saw the level of forgiveness and compassion that was kept within this great man personified through the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” Ambassador Tambo said.

Praising Mr. Mandela’s leadership qualities, Ambassador Tambo described him as “a titan whose life was a gift to the nation of South Africa and to the world at large.” She added: “His life personified leadership through service, the like of which we were blessed to have experienced.”

Ambassador Eric Tonye Aworabhi of the Federal Republic of Nigeria said Mr. Mandela was a great man not only for South Africa but for Africa and the entire world.

Mr. Mandela “was victorious in victory and victorious in defeat,” he said.

After serving 27 years in prison, Mr. Mandela could finally revenge when he had power, but never did so, Ambassador Aworabhi said.

He thanked Italians for welcoming immigrants in Italy. “We have to accommodate each other,” Ambassador Aworabhi said. “We should leave our doors open for all.”

He also thanked Italians who attended the Memorial Service for Mr. Mandela.

After Mass the congregation gathered in the Parish hall where all participants had a chance of sharing their views on what Mr. Mandela represented.

Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a, Editor of Africa News, said he learnt from Mr. Mandela’s life that “the most effective way of defeating whoever considers you an enemy is not through revenge, violence or war, but through understanding, love, forgiveness and by working together with them for the common good.”

He added that Mr. Mandela was a man who had courage to fight for his ideals at a time when they were unpopular and considered dangerous by those in power. Mr. Ongong’a said he was deeply touched by Mr. Mandela’s power to forgive those who saw and treated him as an enemy.

Ouattara Gaoussou, President of Movimento degli Africani in Italia said people like Mr. Mandela are rare indeed. He thanked all present but regretted that many Africans in Rome failed to attend the event.

Mr. Gaoussou appealed to Africans in Rome and in Italy as a whole to unite and work together for the common good. “We must unite as Kwame Nkrumah used to say,” he said.

Quoting Mr. Mandela who once said: "Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people," Mr. Gaoussou urged African leaders to be ready to make sacrifices for their people.

He further urged African leaders to follow the example of Mr. Mandela and be servants of their people, without only thinking of making themselves rich.

“In the name of Madiba, let’s call for immediate release of all political prisoners,” he said.

Mr. Gaoussou said he was disappointed by the Mayor Rome Ignazio Marino’s failure to displaying posters of Mr. Mandela across the city.

Councillor Okeadu said Mr. Mandela “taught the world humanity.” Just as he did, “Africa has so much to teach the world, especially humanity,” Mr. Okeadu said.

Chuks Okorie from Nigeria said “Mandela represented love and reconciliation.”

Romanus Nwaereka, also from Nigeria, described Mr. Mandela as a “man sent here from above,” adding that he opened the eyes of all to realise that we are all equal. Mr. Nwaereka said Mr. Mandela inspired him to fight against racism.

Kadindo Katirisa from the Democratic Republic of Congo said Mr. Mandela proved to the world that “we, Africans are great.”

“We can go far by working together without absconding when our services are needed,” Ms. Katirisa said, adding that “many Mandelas can still emerge from Africa.”

  Jean- Claude Mbede, Director of All-TV said Mr. Mandela “was forgiveness.” People like him are only “born once in a century,” he said.

Chief Emejuru said the death of Mr. Mandela performed a miracle by making a Northern League Party MP talk against racism. The party’s top officials are known for their racist remarks.

 Barbara Mousy, an Italian lady who attended the event said Mr. Mandela was a perfect man who knew how to appreciate women’s qualities and involve them in nation building.

She urged all to follow the example of Mr. Mandela by being ready to sit down together with their enemies and discuss their problems.

A similar message was echoed by Camara Ibrahima from Senegal who advised Africans in Rome to overcome their divisions, come together and discuss their problems.

Col Lembede said Mr. Mandela was a South African but a “world Icon.” He praised him for spearheading the fight against racism in South Africa. “Racism was killed in South Africa through the Constitution. There is no racism anymore in South Africa,” he said.