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World leaders should learn from Mandela

Obama appears to have understood nothing of Madiba's values and ideals

Yesterday's memorial service for freedom fighter and former South African president Nelson Mandela was rightly an occasion for celebration as well as sadness.

Many words were said about his commitment to freedom, democracy, reconciliation and peace. But some world leaders should at least have had the decency to blush when uttering them.

And nobody more so than US President Barack Obama. For someone who claims Madiba as his earliest source of political inspiration Obama appears to have understood nothing of his hero's values and ideals.

Now into the second year of his second term of office, the US president has had ample time to redeem his pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay torture and concentration camp in the US-occupied part of Cuba. Yet still he promises, prevaricates and then periodically goes silent.

The new compromise agreement reached in the US Congress over the proposed National Defence Authorisation Act will give the executive new powers to facilitate the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners to a third country, including their own.

Two-thirds of those still detained are Yemeni citizens whose government has asked for their repatriation.

British prisoner Shaker Aamer has languished in the Guantanamo hellhole since his abduction and incarceration there almost 12 years ago.

He shouted to a passing CBS television crew from his cell last month: "Please, we are tired. Either leave us to die in peace or tell the world the truth.

"We cannot walk not even half a metre without being chained. Is that a human being? That's the treatment of an animal."

Nelson Mandela would have known that feeling.

He might even have mentioned it when accompanying the US president on a visit to his old cell on Robben Island in June this year. Usefully, the Obama family was brought along to embellish the tear-jerking photo opportunities.

Well, the time has arrived for the US president to put up or shut up and serve the rest of his term of office in shame and ignominy.

Guantanamo must be closed without further delay and US military forces should quit Cuba and stop despoiling that beautiful country.

Then there were all those other world leaders in South Africa yesterday who dare not mention one of the greatest legacies of Madiba's presidency.

He and the inaugural ANC government unilaterally renounced nuclear weapons.

The bombs developed by the old apartheid regime with the assistance of Israel were made safe and destroyed.

So far, no other nuclear power has followed suit, although Ukraine and Belarus have handed their Soviet-era atomic arsenals to Russia.

Let us hope that the representatives of the US, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan had the decency to keep their traps shut yesterday rather than prattle on about peace.

If they really want to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela they could follow his example and renounce their own weapons of mass annihilation.

Instead, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his unelected regime have pledged to press ahead with the development of a new generation of nuclear missiles to replace the Trident system.

As he stood there so solemnly in Johannesburg on Tuesday, did he realise how big a hypocrite he and his companions looked in the eyes of genuine peace lovers everywhere?


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