The best of the Nobel Peace Prize winners tend to stick together in their pursuit of justice and democracy. Just this week, retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu (awarded the prize in 1984) lashed out at his South African government after it stalled, in order not to offend the Communist government of China, on giving a visa to the Dalai Lama (1989), who had hoped to visit Cape Town to help Tutu celebrate his 80th birthday.
Our government – representing me! – says it will not support Tibetans being viciously oppressed by China. You, president Zuma and your government, do not represent me. I am warning you, as I warned the [pro-apartheid] nationalists, one day we will pray for the defeat of the ANC government.
Both Tutu and the Dalai Lama, in their turn, long stood by Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), the heroine of the democracy movement in Burma who has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest. Aung San Suu Kyi is now free, albeit constrained by censorship and tight political control, and we can be sure she will welcome as a worthy addition to the club Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, one of three African women to be awarded the Peace Prize this year.
Like Aung San Suu Kyi, Johnson Sirleaf, who has visited The Post a couple of times to make her case for aid to her impoverished nation of
Libya Liberia, has always been more interested in results than in prizes and commendations. She was elected president in 2005, when Liberia was so devastated by civil war that it had almost no electricity or running water. Children would go to public taps for a trickle of water and gather at night under street lights to do their homework. The country has come a long way since then, but, as she would be the first to acknowledge, has even longer to go. No doubt she will use the publicity from the Nobel to draw attention, again, to why it is in the world’s interest to help countries like Liberia help themselves.
But we expect she, and her co-winners, will also use the moment to remind the world of the one living Peace Prize winner we can’t hear from today: Liu Xiaobo (2010). Liu, an eloquent advocate of peaceful democratization in China, was in prison when he won the award last year, and he remains jailed today, with his wife, Liu Xa, under house arrest and also prohibited from speaking out. He is a worthy member of the band, and his imprisonment says a lot about the fearful dictators of Beijing.
More from PostOpinions
Read two pieces by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: “Global crisis is threatening Africa’s turnaround” and “How American aid is lifting Libya”.