World leaders pay tribute to Nelson Mandela
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International leaders on Friday paid their respects to anti-apartheid hero and former South African President Nelson Mandela. Political and spiritual leaders alike remembered a man who changed the course of history and inspired people everywhere.
"Fellow South Africans, our beloved Nelson Rohlihla Mandela, the founding president of our democratic nation, has departed," South African President Jacob Zuma announced in a television address live to the nation late on Thursday.
With those words, Zuma announced the passing of one of the most important figures of the 20th century.
“His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love," Zuma added.
The moment South Africans have been dreading had arrived, and heartfelt tributes from world leaders quickly flooded in.
President Barack Obama hailed Mandela as a leader who left South Africa with a legacy of freedom and peace.
“He achieved more than could be expected of any man," Obama said at the White House shortly after Zuma’s moving announcement.
“Today he's gone home, and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth,” Obama said.
Flags across the world were flying at half mast on Friday, including in the United States, France and Britain.
Changed the world
French President François Hollande said Mandela had helped write the history not only of his country, but that of the whole world.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that Mandela was “a giant for justice” whose “selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom” inspired countless people.
“No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations,'' Ban told reporters in New York.
The UN Security Council interrupted a meeting and stood for a minute in silent tribute to the anti-apartheid icon.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said "a great light had gone out" following Mandela's death.
"Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time.”
In a statement from Buckingham Palace, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II said she was "deeply saddened" by Mandela’s death, adding that he had "worked tirelessly for the good of his country".
Prince Charles also paid tribute, saying Mandela was “the embodiment of courage and reconciliation."
"With his passing, there will be an immense void not only in his family's lives, but also in those of all South Africans and the many others whose lives have been changed through his fight for peace, justice and freedom,” he said.
‘A dear friend’ to many
Nobel laureate and Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who like Mandela spent many years in detention, lamented the passing of a "great human being who... made us understand that we can change the world".
The Dalai Lama said he would miss a "dear friend."
"The best tribute we can pay to him is to do whatever we can to contribute to honouring the oneness of humanity and working for peace and reconciliation as he did," said the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)