Africa pays tribute to iconic civil rights activist John Lewis who made America better than he found it

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African Union chairperson and President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa has paid tribute to the late United States Congressman John Lewis who passed away last week at the age 0f 80.

Ramaphosa said Congressman Lewis united two continents in the struggle to end racist inequality and affirm universal human rights.

In a statement on Monday, President Ramaphosa extended his condolences to Congressman Lewis’s family, friends, fellow Congressmen and Congresswomen, and his many partners and supporters globally.

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JOHN LEWIS (1940-2020)
John Lewis (1940-2020)

Congressman Lewis served as the Representative for the 5th congressional district of the State of Georgia before losing the battle to cancer last week.

The Congressman was a close supporter of South Africa’s liberation struggle and undertook several visits to South Africa. He met Nelson Mandela shortly after Madiba’s release from prison and was a guest at President Mandela’s Inauguration.

Congressman Lewis also had several engagements with President Mandela during the President’s visits to the United States.

“Congressman John Lewis was a global icon of the fight for human rights and equality,” President Ramaphosa said in a statement received by TODAY NEWS AFRICA in Washington DC.

“He was a civil rights leader who dedicated his life to the attainment of equality for all people and to the ending of the legacy of colonialism, slavery and the crime against humanity that was apartheid.

“While he fought a long and brave struggle in the country of his birth, he maintained a global perspective on the fight against racism and lent his support to our own struggle at critical moments such as the Sharpeville Massacre.

“He was an inspiration to the civil rights movement in the United States and mobilised this movement to place pressure on the apartheid regime across the international community. Through his work in the Black Caucus of Congress he put in place a powerful and influential centre of support for our liberation struggle.

“He was a close and trusted advisor and ally to Martin Luther King Jr, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama and many other leaders who drew on his formidable intellect, resilience and immovable insistence on justice.

“May his soul rest in peace.”

President Barack Obama hugs Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. after his introduction during the event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., March 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama hugs Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. after his introduction during the event to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., March 7, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari also joined the United States Government and citizens, and other world leaders in mourning the passing of two iconic civil rights activists, John Robert Lewis, 80 and Rev. Cordy Tindell “C.T.’’ Vivian, 95, affirming that their courage and sacrifice in standing for the truth went beyond the borders of their country.

 “John Lewis and Rev. Cordy Tindell Vivian were transformative leaders who worked with others to change the unwanted situations of blacks in their country and the world over. They left enduring legacies that will never be forgotten. We are all deprived by their passing.”

The President prayed that the Almighty God will receive the soul of the civil rights activists, and heal the nation of the deep pain of loss.

The President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo recalled how Ghana hosted John Lewis last year, describing him as an icon.

“I have received the sad news of the death of one of the icons of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America, Congressman John Lewis,” Akufo-Addo tweeted.

“Ghana played host to him and a delegation from the US Congress last year, as part of activities to commemorate the ‘Year of Return’. His was a life well-lived.

“The Ghanaian people and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and to the Government and people of the United States of America. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Other African leaders also remembered Lewis as an icon who left the world better than he found it in 1940.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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