Tributes to a ‘true world hero’
Flags at half mast across the world as leaders unite in praise for Madiba
WASHINGTON: Nelson Mandela’s death has unleashed a chorus of awed respect from across the world. Statesmen, resistance leaders, Nobel laureates and prisoners of conscience have died before but never has one man inspired such global unity in honouring his death.
The AU mourned the passing of a “pan-African icon”, ordering flags to fly at half mast.
Foreshadowing the guest list of what will surely be the most important funeral of recent decades, world leaders queued up to issue tributes.
”Mandela has fought a good fight, and bowed out with great reverence,” said Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chair of the AU Commission. “His passing on is a great loss to his family, to our continent and indeed to humanity itself.
“Madiba... symbolises the spirit of pan-Africanism and solidarity in the struggles of humanity against apartheid, oppression and colonialism and for self- determination, peace and reconciliation.
“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,” said US President Barack Obama.
“He achieved more than could be expected of any man,” said Obama, who is expected to attend Mandela’s state funeral. Obama ordered US flags at the White House and other public buildings flown at half mast until Monday, in a rare tribute to a foreign leader.
Over and over, leaders returned to the dignity Mandela displayed during his long imprisonment and when he led South Africa to majority rule.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in 2006 apologised for what he said were the “mistakes” of his Conservative Party in its response to apartheid in Britain’s former colony, was also moved.
“A great light has gone out in the world,” he said.
“Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.”
India yesterday declared five days of national mourning for Mandela, hailed as a “true Gandhian” and a “great friend” by the country’s leaders.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said: “In a world marked by division, his was an example of working for reconciliation and harmony and we are not likely to see another of his kind for a long time.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Mandela as “one of the greatest politicians in modern times”, saying he was a man who never betrayed his convictions.
“Mandela, having gone through the most difficult ordeals, was committed to the end of his days to the ideals of humanism and justice.”
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.”
Bill Clinton, US president during Mandela’s time as president, said: “We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for who abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.”
The UN Security Council in New York was in session when the ambassadors received news of Mandela’s death. They stood for a minute’s silence.
“Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-toearth human inspiration,” said secretary-general Ban Kimoon. He “showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity”.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay honoured Mandela for having led oppressed citizens into a post-apartheid era that was marked by reconciliation rather than revenge.
“He told us to throw our spears and guns into the sea,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a South African. “He told us to set aside our desire for vengeance and work for a South Africa not just free of racism, but free of all types of discrimination.”
“The world has lost one of its greatest citizens,” Tanzanian President Kikwete said, calling Mandela “a voice of courage, a source of inspiration and a beloved leader to us all”.
In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame said “he will continue to live in the hearts of many of us”.
French President Francois Hollande said he had “made history – that of South Africa and the whole world”.
“He showed that human will could not only break the chains of servitude but free the energy to succeed in building a common destiny. Mandela’s message will never die. It will continue to inspire freedom fighters and give confidence to people who defend just causes and universal rights.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping praised Nelson Mandela’s “historic contribution” to South Africa and the world.
”With arduous and extraordinary efforts, he led the people of South Africa to success in the struggle against apartheid, making a historic contribution to the birth and development of a new South Africa.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Nelson Mandela was of the most honourable figures of our time. He was the father of his people, a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence.
“He set a personal example for his people in the long years he spent in prison. He was never arrogant. He worked to mend the tears in South African society and with his character managed to prevent outbursts of racial hatred.
“He will be remembered... as an outstanding moral leader.”
“Today a great freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela, has died, one of the world’s most important symbols of freedom,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group.
In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro declared three days of national mourning.
“Nine months since the passing of our comandante (Hugo Chavez), another giant of the people of the world passed away today. Madiba you will live forever!” Maduro said.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: “He fought for the abolition of apartheid with strong will. On nation building, he made a major achievement, with focus on the reconciliation of the people.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said: “His name will always be associated with the fight against the oppression of his people and with overcoming the apartheid regime.
“Not even years in prison could break Nelson Mandela or make him bitter... (his) shining example and his political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism will continue to inspire people around the world for many years to come.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said: “Humanity has lost a tireless champion of peace, liberty and equality.”
“Nelson Mandela was a man who changed the world. He was as firm in his belief in the equal value of every human being as he was strong in his will and ability to bring about reconciliation.
“He chose reconciliation where others would have chosen vengeance... gave people around the world a role model and an ideal,” said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said: “The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe... The boy from the Transkei has finished his long walk. His journey transformed not just South Africa but humanity itself.”
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said: “Nelson Mandela was an inspirational leader, and a remarkable man... For years he symbolised South Africa’s hope for a future free from apartheid. Mr Mandela was a force for change, not only in South Africa, but around the world.”
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: “Mandela conducted with passion and intelligence one of the most important processes of human emancipation in contemporary history – the end of apartheid in South Africa. His fight morphed itself into a paradigm, not only for the African continent, but also for those who fight for freedom, justice and equality.”
SOLIDARITY: Flags fly at half mast at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London, yesterday as a mark of respect after the death of Nelson Mandela.
‘HE’S GONE HOME’: US President Barack Obama speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Obama said the world had lost an influential, courageous and ‘profoundly good’ man.
POLE POSITION: EU flags fly at half mast to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels yesterday.