NAIROBI, KENYA, JULY 13 -- African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela suggested today in this country where calls for multi-party democracy have led to violence that Western nations have no right to press African countries to accept democratic reforms.
The 71-year-old South African spoke here in the wake of four days of rioting that began Saturday when the government tried to stop a rally urging the one-party state of President Daniel arap Moi to allow political pluralism. The clashes left at least 20 persons dead.
Suffering from a mild case of pneumonia, Mandela addressed 20,000 people at a stadium and made no mention of the riots. But he praised Kenyans who fought for independence from Britain in the 1950s.
"What right has the West, what right have the whites anywhere, to teach us about democracy when they executed those who asked for democracy during the time of the colonial era?" he asked.
The Moi government has accused the United States of fueling Kenya's democracy movement and interfering in its affairs, after the U.S. State Department criticized the arrests last week of 11 proponents of a multi-party system and the U.S. Embassy gave refuge to Gibson Kamau Kuria, a Kenyan human rights lawyer, and arranged his safe passage to Britain Thursday.
Kuria said today in London that he fears the Moi government will resort to massive violence to suppress the democracy movement. The Standard newspaper here said police detained six people following the riots.
Mandela made no mention of an open letter asking for his help sent to him Thursday by the wives of seven Kenyan dissidents who were arrested or went into hiding after urging multiple parties. Mandela was freed in February from 27 years in South African prisons.
Mandela noted Kenya's past financial aid to the ANC, but added that the black nationalist movement still needs help from the international community and from Africa in particular.
"We go home determined to fight harder than ever before because we smell victory," said Mandela, who is concluding a month-long world tour.