Statement by H.E. Ambassador Kazuyoshi Umemoto
Charge d’Affaires, a.i. and Deputy Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
At the Special Meeting to commemorate Mr. Nelson Mandela
December 19, 2013
I greatly appreciate the opportunity you have given to all of us to commemorate the life and achievement of the former President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela.
Former President Nelson Mandela was a man of conviction, a promoter of reconciliation and a beacon of hope for the future, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe describes in his statement of condolences on the tragic loss of the founder of the a new democratic South Africa. On behalf of the government and the people of Japan, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family and the people and the government of the Republic of South Africa for their great loss.
I join all my colleagues in paying tribute to Mr. Mandela’s unwavering devotion for human dignity and national unity. The world praises him for putting an end to apartheid. What makes the world leaders admire him is attributed not only to his selfless and unyielding fight for freedom, but also the way he devoted himself to the pursuit of national unity. Despite his own 27-year imprisonment, he promoted reconciliation between races rather than vengeance. When asked, in an interview, how he could restrain hatred, Mr. Mandela is said to have answered; “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.”
His unwavering conviction accompanied with actual deeds in the pursuit of national unity and future prosperity serves as an example for those struggling towards national reconciliation in many parts of the world. It also deeply inspires us all who are working towards world unity, hand in hand with the United Nations. It is our duty to continue his legacy of fighting against all forms of injustice.
Former President Mandela also had a strong connection with Japan. He visited Japan three times. During his visit in 1990, Mr. Mandela spent a lot of his time talking about the importance of human dignity and equality, and called for our support for the abolition of apartheid. Upon his state visit, in his capacity as President of South Africa in 1995, President Mandela stressed the importance of national unity towards a prosperous future for his country and expressed deep appreciation for Japan in supporting his endeavors. Through these visits, the former President made a deep impact on the people of Japan.
Among many heart-warming memories with Mr. Mandela, there is one small episode in particular, which our colleagues in the Japanese embassy in Pretoria will cherish forever. In February 1990, Mr. Mandela attended a reception hosted by our diplomatic mission in Pretoria, on the occasion of the arrival of the new consul-general. It was right after Mr. Mandela was released from his imprisonment. Mr. Mandela, who usually favored the so-called “Madiba shirts,” showed up with a black tie, to the surprise of many, in respect for Japan and our people there. A photograph from the day with Mr. Mandela with a black tie is treasured among our diplomats who then served in South Africa.
His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito and Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended the national memorial service on December 10, to pay special tribute to the man who touched the hearts of the people of Japan and to express deepest respect for the universal values for which Mr. Mandela stood. His contribution for deepening the bilateral relations will never be forgotten.
It is our strong belief that the people and the government of the Republic of South Africa have the strength to overcome this great sadness and to continue to work towards further prosperity and unity of the country. The government of Japan is determined to walk the long way toward freedom and a better world together with South Africa, taking inspiration from the vision and achievements of former President Mandela.
While we all recall the distinguished, selfless devotion of Mr. Mandela for his country, may his soul rest in peace.