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Former Algerian Diplomat Shares Memories of Madiba’s Visit

Former Algerian Ambassador Nouerddine Djoudi has shared some of his treasured memories of Nelson Mandela’s visit to Algeria in 1962.

Djoudi gave a lecture at the Nelson Mandela Centre for Memory in Johannesburg as part of Mandela Month.

He says this trip would form the bond of friendship between the two countries which has endured the test of time.

Algeria is one of the countries Mandela visited for military training.

“When Madiba came we were really impressed, the man was quiet in aspects, smiling every now and then, at the same time listening carefully asking the right questions and getting answers, you could find in him some kind of charisma.”

Mandela underwent some military training in Algeria which was in the middle of a war for independence against France.

Although, he could not stay for the 45 days to complete his course, he did get some training and even went to the combat zone.

“I was ordered first to take Madiba to a war zone because they wanted him to see for himself the reality which was an extremely heavy load on me because I had to make sure he does not become a victim. His security was vital and Madiba saw our fighters trying to cross the road, landmines, barbed wire and so on.”

Djoudi says Mandela was struck by the similarity between the South African and French armies.

“He saw the French army, some military station there and he saw through binoculars and said how did the South African army get here and we said no they are French. You see the similarity of identities.”

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This strategic alliance in the fight of Algeria on the one hand and South Africa on the other hand had the impact on our relations today

It became clear at the training camps that Mandela was no stranger to military armaments and he showed quite impressive skill with guns.

Djoudi said the Algerian National Liberation Army shared some of their strategies with Mandela, especially those they believed would help uMkhonto we Sizwe.

He points to this trip as the beginning of long-lasting ties between South Africa and the North African country.

Djoudi says even upon Mandela’s death, Algerians observed eight days of mourning, normally reserved for the death of the state president.

“This strategic alliance in the fight of Algeria on the one hand and South Africa on the other hand had the impact on our relations today that we have kept the same quality of relations we had at the time of fighting.”

Djoudi went on to become Algeria’s ambassador to South Africa. He was also awarded the Order of the Companions of Oliver Tambo in silver.

The former diplomat says although the continent has changed and the challenges are different to what they were at that time, Algerians are still invested in the prosperity of Africa.

The country has had to find a new path after the Arab spring. It has also had to tackle terrorism, which Djoudi believes they have defeated.

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Written by How Africa

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