Let’s get one thing straight: there’s only one Nelson Mandela (Madiba) – every other one is a counterfeit. Still, many people have placed Aung San Suu Kyi on a pedestal alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela. As a matter of fact, she’s often called Nelson Mandela of Myanmar. Truth be told Nelson Mandela is Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi is Aung San Suu Kyi, you can’t compare death to sleep.
Suu Kyi’s role in fighting for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar launched her into being an iconic figure deified in the West and the rest of world, and as such, she eventually won a Nobel Peace prize award in 1991. She won the Nobel peace prize because she pushed for democracy in a once authoritarian country which is a noble act and highly commendable. As someone who has spent almost three decades of their life under authoritarian regimes, I can personally tell you that the worst democratic government is better than the best of any military regime.
The question is, does democracy equal peace or better yet, is democracy synonymous with peace? Does the mere absence of conflict mean peace? I will leave this for another post!
The question of democracy aside, there are some striking similarities between Nelson Mandela and Suu Kyi:
- They both fought for the restoration of humanity for the people – Mandela fought to terminate the apartheid regime in South Africa while Suu Kyi civilianized Myanmar government from military dictatorship.
- Madiba and Aung San Suu Kyi were both imprisoned for 27 years and 15 years respectively.
- They both won the Nobel Peace Prize, 1991 and 1993 respectively
- They both went from prison to power – Mandela became the first black South African President while Suu Kyi is the incumbent State Counsellor, a position akin to a Prime Minister.
However, this is where the similarities end. What differentiates Nelson Mandela from Suu Kyi is that the former not only knew what he was fighting against when he resisted the South African apartheid regime, he also knew what he was fighting for – raising the standards of all humanity dignity:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” Nelson Mandela
It was Mandela’s commitment to upholding the sanctity of human dignity rooted in his values that prevented him from practicing the same racial discrimination that he once condemned. Suu Kyi, on the other hand, only knew what she was fighting against and had no sense of what she was fighting for. As such, it is safe to conclude that she wasn’t keenly interested in changing the system in Myanmar. Rather, she was interested in using the fight for democracy as a strategy to ensure human rights for her own people and as a means to gain international recognition for political power – true democracy and human rights were alien to her value system.
Her deadly silence on the atrocious, ongoing ethnic cleansing being committed against the minority Muslim Rohingya population has caused about 400,000 Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh for their safety. She has refused to condemn Myanmar’s military for their brutal crackdown on the ethnic minority, which is a testament to her commitment to power at the expense of human rights. She finally delivered an unpleasant and empty speech after being pressured by the international community and likes of Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, fellow Nobel laureates.
It is incontestable that Suu Kyi is the 21st century shame, an insult and disgrace to the prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize award.
May the Lord bless the souls of credible women and men who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Bunche, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Wangari Maathai, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Malala Yousafzai e.t.c.
There are also some winners like Henry Kissinger, Frederik Willem de Klerk, President Teddy Roosevelt and President Barack Obama and others whose winning has gravely diminished the credibility and prestige of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Although, Nelson Mandela died in 2013, he remains even more relevant in death because of his values to defend the dignity of the human race without regard to race, color, ethnicity, creed, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, age, etc
Suu Kyi may have succeeded in using democracy and human rights as a strategy for attaining her current political power as well as winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But she has lost the moral authority to champion those same rights. Void of a commitment to the complete and total liberation of all people, she has made a mockery of justice.
You (Aung San Suu Kyi) are still alive, but you’ve lost all sense of relevance. You can imagine what would happen when you are no longer alive. You have the Peace Prize but your sainthood has been shattered into pieces, you’ve lost credibility and believability with the global community.
What a disastrous way to end your once glorious beginning!