World pays tribute to Mandela
06.12.13 @ 09:29
BRUSSELS - Tributes and condolences are pouring in from all over the world following the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela.
The 95-year old died on Thursday (5 December) after suffering from a lung infection.
Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison after being convicted for treason. He was released in 1990. He had fought against the white minority regime, which had segregated South Africans along racist divides known as apartheid.
That fight started in 1948 when the Afrikaner Nationalist party won the whites-only elections and began to implement its apartheid plans.
After reconciliation with his white captors, Mandela went on to become South Africa’s first democratically elected president in 1994.
He won the Nobel Peace prize and was widely regarded as one of the world’s most well respected statesman.
But he was long regarded ambivalently or with outright hostility in parts of the west.
Mandela led the African National Congress liberation movement, an organisation that was removed from the US terrorist watch list in 2008. Mandela’s name had also been on the list.
Condoleezza Rice, US Secretary of State at the time, called the restrictions “rather embarrassing”.
Former US vice-president Dick Cheney during the 1980s had opposed a non-binding congressional resolution to release Mandela from prison and lift the ANC terrorist label.
Upon Mandela’s death, UK prime minister in a tweet wrote: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast.”
The tone in the UK during the 1980s was different.
At the time, Margaret Thatcher had described the ANC “as a typical terrorist organisation. Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land”.
For their part, EU leaders announced their own condolences.
European Commission president Jose Barroso and EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy, in a joint statement, said they “mourn the death of one of the greatest political figures of our times.”
The two describe Mandela as a man with a profound humanity, moral integrity and authority. Mandela is “one of the greatest political figures of our times”, they said.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz in a separate statement said Mandela “has been a fighter, a leader and a source of inspiration for so many people throughout Africa, Europe and the entire world.”
The EU institutions are flying their flags at half mast to mark Mandela’s death.