Sunday, April 27, 2014

Today's African Holidays - 27 April 2014

Today three African countries celebrate national holidays. It is Independence Day in Sierra Leone and Togo. It is Freedom Day in South Africa.

As the BBC reported on April 27, 1961:
Sierra Leone has become the latest West African state to win independence, after more than 150 years of British colonial rule.

The new nation was born at the stroke of midnight, when its green, white and blue flag was unfurled. A huge crowd, gathered at Brookfields Playground in Freetown to watch the historic moment, broke into tumultuous cheering.

Independence Day formally began as the Duke of Kent handed over royal instruments recognising Sierra Leone as an independent nation.
In a press statement dated April 25, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry said, in part:
We are all profoundly aware that Sierra Leone is becoming one of Africa’s greatest success stories. When I was Senator from Massachusetts, the suffering of Sierra Leone was not just an issue on the Foreign Relations Committee; it became personal because my state became a haven to so many Sierra Leoneans fleeing violence and grievous wounds. I came to know children who had lost parents and parents who had carried on after losing their children. They dreamed of a day when their home would be peaceful again.

Today, that is much more than a dream. Sierra Leone is a model post-conflict country. Although so many lost so much during the civil war, we have proudly witnessed how Sierra Leoneans summoned the will to pick themselves up and rebuild their country.
Togo was one of 17 African countries that gained independence in 1960. Most of those countries had been French colonies, and Togo was one of those.

Secretary also sent wishes to Togo on April 25, saying:
On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I congratulate the people of Togo as you celebrate your independence on April 27.

Our two countries enjoy a strong partnership. The United States appreciates Togo’s efforts to promote regional peace, expand economic opportunity, and fight transnational crime.

We look forward to continuing to work together in the years to come

Freedom Day in South Africa commemorates the first fully democratic elections held in the country in 1994, after the end of apartheid. It was that year that Nelson Mandela was elected president.

Secretary Kerry's message of congratulations (dated April 25) makes special mention of Mandela's legacy:
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I extend warmest wishes to the people of the Republic of South Africa on your Freedom Day on April 27.

This year’s celebration is especially poignant: it marks the 20th anniversary of your nation’s first democratic elections and follows the recent passing of the Rainbow Nation’s beloved son, Nelson Mandela.

Madiba was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation. On this 20th anniversary, we reflect on South Africa’s transformation in these two decades as a testament to the power of reconciliation, forgiveness, and hope.

This year also marks an important milestone for the United States as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which expanded voting rights to racial minorities. Our own commemoration is yet another reminder of the work ahead in our shared struggle for democracy and human rights.

As you prepare to hold general elections next month – your fifth in the post-apartheid era – we remember the spirit of that historic election in 1994, one filled with tremendous hope, goodwill, and promise for a better future.

For further reference, David Harris's Sierra Leone: A Political History is scheduled to be published May 1. Samuel Decalo has compiled a Historical Dictionary of Togo (1996), which may be due for an update. Books about South Africa are numerous; one recent publication is The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics edited by Clifton Crais and Thomas V. McClendon (2013).