During his visit to South Africa, President Obama took his wife and children to a prison on an island. He was “deeply humbled” as he stepped inside the cold damp cell and saw the thin mattress on the concrete floor and the toilet bucket.
Here a father was held for years, denied the sight and sound and laughter of his children.This was Robben Island and it was the former cell of Nelson Mandela.
President Obama marvelled at the “courage of the men who faced down injustice and refused to yield .. heroes who reminded us that no shackles or cells can match the strengthen of the human spirit.”
But did the US President see the supreme irony of his words and actions?
He should visit another island, Cuba. He should see the freezing cold cells and be humbled by the courage of men, imprisoned for years without charge. He should see the bones of their weakened bodies wasting away after months on hunger strike. Even better, he could end their ordeal by acting on his own fine words and close the evil prison of Guantanamo.
Then,men of courage, like British Resident Shaker Aamer, could be freed to live the rest of their lives with their families. Shaker Aamer also longs for the day when he can walk freely without shackles.The world saw pictures of President Obama and his wife at the open door of Mandela’s cell. Obama could open the doors of the cells of Guantanamo and 166 prisoners could,at last,begin their long walk to freedom.
Chair, Lewes Amnesty International Group, Lewes