Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 1994
Volume 5
Issue 3
Page Numbers 133-37
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South Africa

Nelson Mandela, who served 27 years in prison during the era of apartheid, was chosen by the National Assembly as president of the Republic of South Africa, following the decisive victory of his African National Congress in the country’s first nonracial parliamentary elections on April 26-28. President Mandela’s inaugural address, delivered on May 10, is reprinted in its entirety below:

Your Majesties, your Highnesses, distinguished guests, comrades, and friends,

Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all. All this we owe both to ourselves and to the peoples of the world who are so well represented here today.

To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld.

Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change.

We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.

That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this common homeland explains the depth of the pain we all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict, and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it had become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression. [End Page 133]

We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.

We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity. We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism, and democracy.

We deeply appreciate the role that the masses of our people and their political mass democratic, religious, women, youth, business, traditional and other leaders have played to bring about this conclusion. Not least among them is my Second Deputy President, the Honourable F.W. de Klerk.

We would also like to pay tribute to our security forces, in all their ranks, for the distinguished role they have played in securing our first democratic elections and the transition to democracy from bloodthirsty forces which still refuse to see the light.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.

The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

The time to build is upon us.

We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.

We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just, and lasting peace.

We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity—a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

As a token of its commitment to the renewal of our country, the new Interim Government of National Unity will, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of amnesty for various categories of our people who are currently serving terms of imprisonment. We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free. Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.

We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness.

We understand that there is no easy road to freedom. We know well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act [End Page 134] together as a united people for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.

Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.

Let there be work, bread, water, and salt for all.

Let each know that for each the body, the mind, and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.

The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.

Let freedom reign.

God bless Africa.

El Salvador

In a runoff election on April 24, Armando Calderón Sol of the Republican Nationalist Alliance (ARENA) was elected president of El Salvador, succeeding fellow ARENA member Alfredo Cristiani. In an inaugural speech delivered on June 1, President Calderón expressed his firm commitment to the establishment of social peace following 12 years of civil war and to the reconstruction of the nation based on democratic principles of tolerance, equality, and justice. Excerpts from this speech appear below:

We are grateful for the presence of representatives of friendly peoples and governments. We regard it as a new expression of support for the people of El Salvador in this process of peace and strengthening of democracy to which we are so fervently committed. We are building a new El Salvador, which is modern, democratic, and participative. This demands legality, security, honesty, respect for each other, solidarity, and opening. The framework for our administration will be the Constitution and its laws, which we, the government and the governed, must all respect. Our objective is the full state of law that will guarantee the equality of all Salvadorans before the law, making sure that this will be the golden rule of national coexistence, without improper privileges or unjust exclusions.

. . . Our administration will not tolerate corruption of any kind. We will make sure public functions are honest and integrity exists in all public servants so that honesty in every one of our actions becomes the norm that guides the work of the administration as a whole. We believe in the irresistible force of example. That is why, before the entire nation, we pledge to have an administration that is honest and respectful of public affairs so that democracy can continue gaining credibility.

We will work toward strengthening a society that lives in harmony and where respect for human dignity is the basic rule of coexistence among [End Page 135] Salvadorans. We do not want any more confrontation, much less polarization. We will work for cooperation among all the political and social forces to advance the important national project. . . .

The time of dogmas and fanatics has ended. . . .

Our administration’s clear goal will be to achieve social peace. For this we must turn El Salvador into a nation of opportunities. . . . The lack of opportunity to progress causes poverty and frustration. We have just come out of a conflict that to a great extent was the result of despair over the lack of opportunities. A large number of our compatriots live in poverty. We must break the vicious circle of “he who is born poor must die poor.” We will give special attention to education, health, child protection, and the environment. We must work toward solving these big problems through the participation of all Salvadorans. We will foster support programs for human promotion to improve the standard of living. We will put our efforts in the people to achieve human, social, economic, and political development, so that this can be a truly sustained development.

This demands a different attitude, a different frame of mind, and a different focus that will allow us to move onto the path of modernization and which, in turn, will allow us to cope firmly with the challenges of the new millennium. We must stress the best characteristics all Salvadorans have—our creativity and hard-working nature—because this is our greatest resource. We have attained peace, and now the guns are silent. Nevertheless, we must still do away with senseless rivalries and antagonism. We must rebuild our nation in a physical, moral and spiritual manner in order that, together, we can achieve a social peace that will be a new means of attaining harmony, respect, security, and participation among all Salvadorans.

All political groups are present in the Legislative Assembly. As president, our work requires sweeping dialogue and support to carry out the government plan. We want to tell the opposition that we are going to maintain open channels of communication with the assembly to listen to its opinions and to reach a basic consensus. We hope to have a constructive opposition so that, together, we will find the best options for our people.

. . . My fellow countrymen, our country is beginning today a new phase in the transition toward a consolidated democracy, for which our country has been working since 1982. We realize the new government, being the first presidential inauguration of the postwar era, brings high hopes and opens new horizons for national development. We must say we are fully aware we are not here just to do a job, but to accomplish a mission. It is a moral job, a job with political content and historic responsibility. This job, in essence, calls for hard work and requires a degree of effectiveness that will allow the people to see the benefits of democracy in their day-today life, not only on the political level but on the social, economic, and cultural levels as well. [End Page 136]


Yelena Bonner, the widow of Andrei D. Sakharov, spoke on May 10 at a meeting at the U.S. Capitol sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission). Excerpts from Dr. Bonner’s May 10 presentation follow:

Later today there will be a solar eclipse. As you probably know, during an eclipse animals behave very strangely because they do not understand what is happening. I have a feeling that many people, in trying to understand the current situation in Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union, have this same animalistic fear. As human beings, we should realize that the sun will in fact shine again.

We are talking about a country that is two years young. Historically speaking, that is an extremely short period of time. One might recall the terrible period around 1919, just two years after the Russian Revolution, when the people were cold and hungry, suffering from an awful typhoid epidemic, and the economy totally collapsed. On top of all that, people were also deprived of all political freedoms. Today, although the situation is difficult, we are not dying of starvation. We do have terrible inflation and a disproportionate exchange rate between the ruble and the dollar, but at the same time, the ruble is in fact a convertible currency. We also now have real democratic freedoms. We are a democratic country with a true multiparty system, free elections, freedom of association, a free press, freedom to gather and distribute information, and freedom to leave the country and to return. I want to note here that many human rights activists in the United States have helped us tremendously in our fight for these freedoms. . . .

Even though the results of the recent elections for the Duma were not what many of us would have wanted, the situation in the country has nevertheless become more stable since the elections took place. Even though the new Duma is not busy making new laws, it is not trying to “rock the boat” the way the old parliament was. I believe that we will calmly live through the period leading up to the next elections. It is very important for us to “go the whole distance” from one election to the next without any extraordinary events. If we succeed in getting from here to there, it almost doesn’t matter who the next president is. It is important to establish a precedent for change of authority by elections rather than by revolution. In any country—even the United States—it is impossible to know two years before an election who the winner will be. Nonetheless, I am often asked to make a prediction regarding who the next president of Russia will be. I think someone from the new communist leadership will win, and that we will follow more or less the same route as Poland. This will not be a major tragedy. [End Page 137]