IL NOUS A QUITTÉS… Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Il est mort ce dimanche [26 décembre 2021], à 90 ans. Durant toute sa vie, il a joué le rôle de conscience morale de l’Afrique du Sud.

Né en octobre 1931 à Klerksdorp, dans le Transvaal (tout près de Johannesburg), son père Zacheriah Zililo est instituteur et sa mère Aletta est cuisinière. La famille est pauvre. De toute sa vie, il gardera les traces d’une poliomyélite qu’il avait contractée dans son enfance.

Desmond Tutu suit sa scolarité au lycée Johannesburg Bantu qu’il quitte en 1950. Il est reçu dans une école médicale mais ne peut y poursuivre ses études faute de moyens financiers. Il reçoit une bourse d’études pour étudier les sciences de l’éducation au Pretoria Bantu Normal College, dont il en sort en 1953 avec un certificat d’enseignant. Il s’installe dans un des quartiers de Soweto. En 1955, il épouse Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, une enseignante avec laquelle il aura 4 enfants. En 1957, il démissionne de son poste d’enseignant, protestant contre l’affaiblissement et la dégradation du niveau déducation des Noirs après l’entrée en vigueur du “Bantu Education Act” de 1953, dont un des points majeurs était de faire respecter le principe d’établissements d’enseignement séparés racialement.

Il se tourne alors vers des études religieuses et, en 1961, il est ordonné prêtre anglican. Il se rend un an plus tard au King’s College de Londres pour approfondir ses études théologiques et obtient une maîtrise en théologie en 1966. Il retourne en 1967 en Afrique du Sud où il travaille comme enseignant en théologie.

En 1975, il est le premier Noir à occuper le poste de doyen du diocèse de Johannesburg, officiant à la cathédrale anglicane St. Mary. Il refuse un logement de fonction luxueux lié à ce poste prestigieux et s’installe dans un des quartiers de Soweto, le ghetto des Noirs, où éclatent, en 1976, de sanglantes émeutes. Sa nouvelle fonction est pour lui une plate-forme idéale et respectée pour défendre les droits des populations noires et dénoncer le régime ségrégationniste et inégalitaire de l’apartheid. En 1978, il devient secrétaire général du conseil œcuménique d’Afrique du Sud, ce qui renforce encore sa stature de personnalité intouchable et de défenseur des personnes noires.

Il devient la voix du militant anti-apartheid Nelson Mandela incarcéré, qu’il n’a jamais rencontré en prison mais dont il partage les fortes convictions. Il plaide pour une action ferme mais non violente. C’est cette détermination pacifique au service d’une juste cause qui lui vaut de recevoir en 1984 le prix Nobel de la paix.

En 1986, il est nommé au plus haut poste de l’église anglicane d’Afrique du Sud, en devenant archevêque de la ville du Cap. En 1987, il devient président de la conférence de toutes les églises du pays, poste qu’il occupera jusqu’en 1996. Grâce à sa popularité et son aura en Afrique du Sud, mais aussi par sa reconnaissance internationale, il joue un rôle déterminant dans la fin de l’apartheid. Le 11 février 1990, Nelson Mandela est enfin libéré après une détention de vingt-sept ans et devient, en 1994, le premier président noir du pays.

Mandela va nommer alors Desmond Tutu à la tête de la commission “Vérité et Réconciliation” qui se met en place à partir de 1995 et qui est chargée d’enquêter sur les violations des droits humains pendant l’apartheid. En trois ans d’enquête, 30.000 personnes sont entendues. Mais Tutu, inspiré par sa foi profonde, prêche le pardon et les coupables sont amnistiés. Un rapport final est remis fin 1998 en ce sens.

Après sa renonciation à la fonction archiépiscopale, il poursuit son engagement en faveur de la vérité, de la justice, dénonçant la corruption politique en Afrique du Sud ou les ventes d’armes du pays et, au plan international, critiquant, par exemple, les violations des droits de l’homme du régime Mugabe au Zimbabwe.

En 2010, il avait annoncé son retrait de la vie publique, mais il continua à participer à de nombreuses actions internationales, défendant par exemple la cause palestinienne en 2012, ou dénonçant la situation des Rohingya en Birmanie en 2017. Ces actions lui ont valu de nombreuses distinctions et un très grand respect dans en Afrique du Sud et partout à l’étranger.

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