Former President of Mozambique, President Joaquim Alberto Chissano, delivered the opening remarks at a three-day conference celebrating the legacy of the late world icon and statesman, Nelson Mandela.

Hosted by the DST-NRF Centre in Indigenous Knowledge Systems (CIKS), the conference included discussions on bioethics, children, youth as well as public healthcare in Africa and Asia. It was titled: Africa-Asia International Forum on Public Healthcare Bioethics for Children and Youth: Honouring 100 Years of Nelson Mandela’s Legacy.

Chissano paid tribute to great icons of the African revolution: President Nelson Mandela as well as UN former Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who had passed away on August 18, a few days before the conference. He commended Mandela and Annan as champions of human rights; with particular emphasis on their unstinting commitment to the rights of children. He also credited his predecessor, Samora Machel, for his commitment to the youth.

Professor Hassan Kaya, CIKS Director and conference convener, said the holistic gathering saw the coming together of Africa and Asia, highlighting Ubuntu and a love of life as commonalities between the continents.

Dr Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe, former Vice-President of Uganda, delivered the keynote address. She emphasised the importance of identifying community-based solutions to issues facing children and the youth. ‘We need to go back to our roots so that we are able to produce for ourselves. Begging is not in our culture,’ she said.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Busi Ncama said Mandela was concerned about environmental ethics and medical care. She applauded the conveners of the conference for initiating the critical discussions, adding that Mandela loved African indigenous foods, despite being a globe-trotting statesman.

The three-day conference also included presentations by a host of academics, researchers and policy makers from Africa, Asia and further afield. They included Japan’s Dr K Komatsu’s paper on Ethical Issues Posed by the War on Terror: Implications on Global Public Health; and the President of the American University of Sovereign Nations (AUSN in the USA), Professor Darryl Macer, who spoke on Protecting Sacred Sites Against Mining and Protecting Indigenous Ideology.

The engagements provided a valuable opportunity to find solutions to problems facing Africa and Asia on ethical challenges, but also allowed the participants to view discussions from different perspectives.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Albert Hirasen