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World pays tribute

Sunday, December 8 2013

For most of the world, his name is synonymous with courage and perseverance. Leaders and citizens, athletes and artists remembered Nelson Mandela even as they struggled to find words big enough to describe the man who changed the face of South Africa and inspired a continent and a world: a colossus, a father figure, a giant baobab tree providing shade for an entire nation.

While Mandela inspired and challenged people everywhere to stand up for others, he had a special legacy for Africa. But his message there was often also an uncomfortable one for leaders who clung to power and amassed riches while their populations suffered. “God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu said. “He inspired us to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation, and so South Africa did not go up in flames.”

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world had lost “a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice and a clear moral compass.” Both Annan and Tutu were part of Mandela’s group of African statesmen known as The Elders.

“He is comparable to a great baobab, this invincible tree under which everyone shelters. And when this baobab falls, we find ourselves exposed,” said Guinea president Alpha Conde. “He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages,” said President Barack Obama, who shares with Mandela the distinction of being his nation’s first black president.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India compared Mandela to his country’s own icon for the struggle for freedom, independence leader Mohandas K Gandhi.

“A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.”

In Haiti, a Caribbean nation that became the world’s first black republic in 1804 through a successful slave revolt, Mandela symbolised the struggle for black equality.

“Mandela is not only the father of democracy in South Africa, but is also a symbol of democracy,” said Haitian president Michel Martelly. “And like any symbol, he is not dead. He is present in all of us and guides us by his lifestyle, his courage and faith in the true struggle for equality.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awarded the 1993 peace prize to Mandela and FW de Klerk, called Mandela “one of the greatest names in the long history of the Nobel Peace Prize.”

“His work presents a message also today to all those who bear responsibility for apparently unresolvable conflicts: Even the most bitter of conflicts can be solved by peaceful means,” the committee said.

(AP)

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