Page last updated at 23:08 GMT, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 00:08 UK

Anger over 'fake' Mandela praise

Bookcover for Straight Speaking for Africa by Denis Sassou Nguesso (Publisher Red Sea Press, Inc)
Denis Sassou-Nguesso's book was published in French earlier this year

South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has denied writing a foreword to a book by the Republic of Congo's President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.

"We condemn this brazen abuse of Mr Mandela's name. We will be taking appropriate action," his Nelson Mandela Foundation said in a statement.

The Congolese president took power in a coup and, after losing an election, regained it by winning a civil war.

The foreword praises Mr Sassou-Nguesso as "one of our great African leaders".

"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," it says.

The bookselling website Amazon says the semi-autobiographical Straight Speaking for Africa was published in English last month by Red Sea Inc of Africa World Press.

The Paris-based publisher, Michel Lafon, first published the book in French earlier in the year. He said Mr Sassou-Nguesso had provided the preface and offered no further comment.

'Legacy abused'

The Nelson Mandela Foundation said the former South Africa president had "neither read the book nor written a foreword for it".

We don't need their authorisation to publish what Mandela said after the Congolese gave their blood for the liberation of southern African countries
Adviser to Congolese President Denis Sassou-Nguesso

The foundation said the name of Mr Mandela, who is often referred to by his clan name Madiba, has been frequently abused for commercial gain.

"This is one of the grosser examples with a direct impact for Madiba's legacy," the foundation's Verne Harris told the UK's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But an adviser to the Congolese president told the BBC that it was not for the Mandela Foundation to decide what he could or could not publish.

The adviser claimed that what was presented as a foreword had been said by Mr Mandela himself in Cape Town when Mr Sassou-Nguesso returned to power in 1997.

"Mandela's name doesn't belong to the Foundation but to the African continent," he said.

"We don't need their authorisation to publish what Mandela said after the Congolese gave their blood for the liberation of southern African countries."

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