- By Neha PaliwalNeha Paliwal is the Editorial Assistant for Democracy Lab.
Nelson Mandela is back in the news this week with the announcement that he’s once again in the hospital and in fragile condition. And while the legacy of the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary leader is open to debate, there’s no denying that he’s often turned to as a source of inspiration. Apparently, that even applies to the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s M23 rebel militia.
On Monday, a Twitter account that appears to be run by members of the rebel movement published a series of tweets quoting Mandela and hailing freedom and peacemaking — not exactly what you’d expect from an armed group that has used violence to battle the Congolese government since 2012.
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting themost nimble go out ahead, ~ Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
“Courage is not the absence of fear — it s inspiring others to move beyond it.”?Nelson Mandela
“As I walkd out Z door toward Zgate Zat wld lead2my freedom,I knew if I didn’t leav my bitterness&hatred behind,I’d stillBin prison~ Mandela
Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” ~ Nelson Mandela
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ~ Nelson #Mandela
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to hishead.If u talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.~Mandela
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”~Nelson Mandela
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”~ Nelson Mandela#M23
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” ~Mandela #M23
“When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ~ Nelson Mandela #m23
Not surprisingly, the rebel army’s decision to invoke one of the world’s greatest peacemakers has ruffled a few feathers.
#Protip: if you carry out human rights abuses, you don’t get to quote Mandela as your inspiration.— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) June 10, 2013
So what explains M23’s love of Mandela? It’s not entirely clear, but M23 members have argued that they have Madiba’s principles on their side in their struggle with the Congolese government. "I appeal to our brothers, the South Africans, not to allow an individual or a group of individuals to discard the values that have built their nation and for which values Nelson Mandela sacrificed his youth," declared M23 youth leader Ali Musagara last month, in urging South Africa not to support Kinshasa.
And hey, given that M23 leaders are currently trying to hash out peace talks with the Congolese government, maybe they actually are inspired. The group has already suggested that just like Mandela, who was once labeled a terrorist, M23 may one day be known for brokering peace, not waging war.