Desmond Tutu prays for Mandela
Desmond Tutu prays for Mandela
Radio 702, a South African station, yesterday broadcast an interview with Tutu in which he says he exchanged telephone text messages about Mandela with the anti-apartheid icon’s wife, Graca Machel.
Mandela who is 94, has been hospitalized since Dec. 8. He was diagnosed with a lung infection and also had gallstone surgery. Officials say his condition has improved.
Tutu and Mandela are Nobel laureates because of their role in the struggle against white minority rule. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years and served one five-year term as president after he was elected in South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994.
A presidential aide declined yesterday to give any update on his current state of health.
The ailing anti-apartheid icon is receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection and has also had a procedure to remove gallstones.
“We all wish that he could be home for Christmas, but first and foremost he needs to get better,” presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj told AFP.
“At this stage there is no update on his condition and his doctors have given no indication about when Madiba will be discharged,” Maharaj said, using Mandela’s clan name.
Only President Jacob Zuma’s office is tasked with issuing updates about the health of the revered elder statesman.
Zuma visited Mandela on Saturday and but did not reveal details about his condition except to say that he was “responding to treatment.”
Zuma had told delegates at the end of the ruling ANC’s party conference on Thursday that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s condition was serious when he was admitted to hospital but said he was a fighter.
“Madiba is an unparalleled fighter and has always been so. He has met all his health challenges with his tremendous fortitude and grace.” This is the longest time Mandela has spent in hospital since being released from prison in 1990 after 27 years.
He was previously hospitalized for an acute respiratory infection in January 2011, when he was kept as an inpatient for two nights.
He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after the end of apartheid, and stepped down in 1999 after spending one term in office.
Official reports about his treatment have not revealed much information about the seriousness of Mandela’s condition nor details about the sort of treatment he is undergoing.
A government official initially said Mandela was being cared for at the One Military hospital outside Pretoria, the country’s top military facility. Press reports later said he was at the private Mediclinic Heart Hospital in the capital, but this has not been confirmed by the government.
Radio 702 reported that security is tight outside the Mediclinic.
After Afghan cease-fire gamble, prospects rise for US-Taliban talks
KABUL/WASHINGTON: Prospects have risen for negotiations between the Taliban and the United States after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called a cease-fire and allowed militants to roam into cities in a gamble to encourage peace talks.
The Taliban, ousted from power in 2001 by US-led troops, insist that any negotiations with what it calls the “puppet” Afghan government on a peace plan can begin only after talks with the United States about withdrawing foreign forces.
Analysts and Western diplomats said Ghani’s offer to hold unconditional peace talks had set the stage for US officials to open backchannel negotiations with the Taliban, despite Washington’s policy that peace talks be Afghan-led.
“Ghani has done his bit,” said Thomas Ruttig, co-director of Afghanistan Analysts Network, an independent think tank.
“It is now for the US to cut through this blockade,” he said, although that would be a departure from US policy that talks to end the 17-year-old war must be wholly Afghan-led.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared ready to tweak the policy when he welcomed Ghani’s 10-day extension of a cease-fire that is currently due to end on Wednesday. The Taliban said its cease-fire ended on Sunday.
“As President Ghani emphasised in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces,” Pompeo said. “The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in these discussions.”
Richard Olson, former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, described the statement as significant “in that it signals that the US is prepared to ultimately discuss the issue that is paramount to the Taliban, which is the withdrawal of foreign forces.”
A senior US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity before the start of the cease-fire, however said there were a number of issues that made direct talks between the Taliban and the United States unlikely in the short-term.
The official said there was a substantial gap in knowledge about the Taliban — for instance as to who had the authority to negotiate on the their behalf. “There is not enough intelligence or resources on this issue,” the official said.
A second official said there was still a question of what would happen with hard-line elements of the Taliban. “There are Taliban that won’t come to the table,” the official said.
The Taliban, in a statement marking the end of their cease-fire on Sunday, said the organization was unified and called on “the invading American party” to “sit directly for dialogue with the Islamic Emirate to find a solution for the ongoing imbroglio.”
A senior diplomat with knowledge of the negotiations leading to the cease-fire estimated the chances of eventual talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government at “50-50.”
“The Taliban want to talk to the US directly on withdrawal (of foreign forces) because they do not want to share the credit of withdrawal with the government,” the official said.
And while Washington has long resisted direct talks with Taliban, the official said that recent developments indicate “the US now seems less and less averse to it.”
In August, US President Donald Trump unveiled a more hawkish military approach to Afghanistan, including a surge in air strikes. Afghan security forces say the impact has been significant, but the Taliban roam huge areas of the country and, with foreign troop levels of about 15,600, down from 140,000 in 2014, there appears little hope of outright victory.
Ghani, never widely popular, met his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, on Sunday to secure support for peace talks. He visited a restaurant in Kabul where he met diners and took selfies with children, trying to capitalize on the unprecedented party atmosphere created by the cease-fire to mark last weekend’s Eid Al-Fitr festival.
But Amrullah Saleh, the former head of intelligence and head of a political party, said Ghani had committed a blunder by allowing insurgents to pour into government-controlled areas.
“Thousands of Taliban fighters were allowed to enter with guns and some of them could be hiding in civilian areas, planning attacks,” Saleh told Reuters.
Ghani has also come in for praise.
“Now we can say that our president is making an absolute honest attempt” for peace, said Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, the chairman of the outspoken New National Front of Afghanistan.