RANGOON—Nobel Peace Prize laureate and anti-apartheid leader Desmond Tutu saw an old wish come true on Tuesday when he arrived in Rangoon, Burma, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
The retired South African archbishop has long expressed his admiration for the pro-democracy leader’s steadfastness and grace in the face of repression in Burma, and upon their meeting he radiated with joy.
“It’s wonderful to be here and we’re looking forward to when your country is truly free and then you’ll see just how much the world admires her. She is a total icon,” Tutu said, while holding Suu Kyi’s hands as a scrub of reporters gathered in front of the opposition leader’s Rangoon home.
On Tuesday, Tutu, 81, was visibly excited to meet his fellow Nobel laureate telling her “I love you” and saying, “She is beautiful.”
A smiling Suu Kyi said she was “very happy” that the famous social activist had come to visit her.
Tutu, who is an icon of his country’s transition from the brutal 1980s apartheid regime to democracy and reconciliation, said he hoped that the forces of changes would prevail in Burma until its transition to democracy is complete.
“I’m very thrilled to be here, but I want to come back to this country when it is really and truly free. The potential of this country is immense and we want to see that potential fully realized when we don’t have ethnic strife,” he said.
Tutu said that all reforms by President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government—which is still dominated by the country’s powerful military—should be welcomed by pro-democracy groups, adding that these groups should also continuously push for more change.
“Anything that moves towards freedom should be encouraged but we’ve also got to be critical” he said. “But you should encourage the few steps [being taken] and we want to see you move to a truly democratic and free country.”
Tutu added that he had no plans to meet with Burmese government officials.