MUTARE from Zimbabwe
African leaders pay tribute to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu for his courageous campaign which helped end South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime and bring democracy to the country.
But many of the same leaders have remained silent about the late Nobel Peace Prize’s support for issues they are uncomfortable with, such as his support for LGBTQ rights, democratic freedoms and environmental issues.
Tutu died Sunday at the age of 90. His casket is due to rest Thursday and Friday at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Cape Town, where the public is invited to parade to pay their respects before a requiem mass and funeral on New Years Day.
A celebration of Tutu’s life, featuring the music and dancing he loved, took place this week at Cape Town Town Hall. Memorial services are planned for Johannesburg and other parts of South Africa.
Tutu was a âtrue son and icon of Africa. His contribution to the liberation struggle and his steadfast position in favor of peace, unity and good governance will be forever cherished, âsaid Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan without mentioning his support for LGBTQ people threatened with arrest in Tanzania.
“Africa has lost a monument,” declared Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye, accused by a UN commission in September of human rights violations.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize 25 years after Tutu, hailed his fellow Laureate as “the epitome of the liberation struggle”, even though Tutu’s founding earlier this year warned that the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region amounted to genocide.
Revered across the continent for opposing apartheid in South Africa and aiding the country’s peaceful transition to majority rule, Tutu went on to tackle some of Africa’s most thorny issues and its leaders.
He criticized South African President Thabo Mbeki for denying HIV / AIDS and preventing the government from distributing life-saving treatment. He blasted South Africa’s next president, Jacob Zuma, for alleged corruption.
He compared a bill criminalizing homosexuality in Uganda to apartheid laws in South Africa that prohibited interracial sex.
Tutu was “ahead of his time,” said Nic Cheeseman, professor of politics and specialist in African politics at the University of Birmingham in Britain.
âA lot of great people have a great fight in them and then they go blind and support the new status quo,â Cheeseman said. âTutu continued to see injustice – economic, racial and sexual – and understood that there were more battles to be won. He didn’t stop with the fall of apartheid.
After the end of apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990sa, Tutu urged the international community to punish the military junta of late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha with sanctions after hanging environmental activist and playwright Ken Saro Wiwa and other activists in 1995.
As evidence mounted of the killings of tens of thousands and the displacement of many in Sudan’s Darfur region, Tutu lashed out at African leaders for supporting and protecting the then Sudanese leader, Omar al Bashir, against an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
âHe believed in the universality of human rights,â Stephen Brown, professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa, said of Tutu. “He had deep convictions no matter how risky or unpopular it might be to stand up for what he believed in.”
Tutu clashed several times with the former leader of Zimbabwe, the late Robert Mugabe, who he said looked like a “caricature of an African dictator”. In turn, Mugabe rejected Tutu for supporting gay rights, calling him “an angry, perverse and bitter little bishop.”
African opposition leaders mourned Tutu’s death.
âA giant has fallen,â tweeted Ugandan opposition leader Bobi Wine, a constant target of harassment from the Ugandan government.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the oppressor’s side,” tweeted a Tanzanian opposition party, the Alliance for Change and Transparency, using one of the most popular quotes. famous Tutu.