Nelson Mandela Foundation accuses Congo president over fake foreword
The Nelson Mandela Foundation has threatened legal action against the president of Congo-Brazzaville after discovering he claimed the foreword of his new book had been penned by the anti-apartheid leader.
The cover of Straight Speaking for Africa by President Denis Sassou Nguesso proudly proclaims "Foreword by Nelson Mandela". Inside, Mr Mandela, 91, is purported to hail a man who came to power in a coup in 1979 and after losing elections regained power by winning a civil war as "one of our great African leaders".
But the anti-apartheid leader's foundation, which guards his legacy, said in a statement: "This is a false claim. Mr Mandela has neither read the book nor written a foreword for it. We condemn this brazen abuse of Mr Mandela's name."
Verne Harris, its acting chief executive, said the Foundation was consulting its lawyers on the issue. "It's outrageous," he said. "Absolutely no request has ever been received and nothing has been signed off by Madiba [Mr Mandela's clan name, by which he is widely referred to in South Africa]."
The Mandela name is frequently abused for commercial gain, but his supposedly endorsing a figure such as Mr Sassou Nguesso - a dictator whose elections are regularly boycotted by the opposition - is even more damaging.
"This is one of the grosser examples with a direct impact for Madiba's legacy," said Mr Harris.
The alleged foreword reads: "In President Denis Sassou Nguesso, I recognize a man who is not only one of our great African leaders ... but also one of those who gave their unconditional support to our fighters' demand for freedom, and who worked tirelessly to free oppressed peoples from their chains and help restore their dignity and hope."
A spokesman for Michel Lafon, the publisher, said: "The preface was provided to us by the author of the book, who is a head of state." He declined to answer when asked if the book would be withdrawn.
Mr Sassou Nguesso's office did not comment.
Par Sebastien Berger in Telegraph.co.uk, le 20 Octobre 2009