People of Africa

Nelson Mandela death: World reaction


People around the world have been reacting to the news that South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died, aged 95.

World leaders…

South African President Jacob Zuma announced Nelson Mandela’s death, saying South Africa had lost “its greatest son” and calling on South Africans to conduct themselves with the “dignity and respect” that Mr Mandela personified.


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President Obama on Mandela: “He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages”

“Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss,” he said.

US President Barack Obama spoke shortly afterwards. “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,” he said.

“Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.”


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Ban Ki-moon: “Let us continue each day to be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong example”

French President Francois Hollande said Mr Mandela’s message would “continue to inspire fighters for freedom, and to give confidence to peoples in the defence of just causes and universal rights”.

Germany’s Angela Merkel said Mr Mandela’s “political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism” would continue to inspire.

Mr Mandela was an “inspiration to the oppressed peoples all over the world” and had made “unparalleled personal sacrifices”, said Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.


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UK Prime Minister David Cameron: “One of the brightest lights of our world has gone out”

Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff said Mr Mandela would “guide all those who fight for social justice and for peace in the world”, and India’s Manmohan Singh said: “A giant among men has passed away.”

For UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mr Mandela “was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration”.

“A great light has gone out in the world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr Mandela was “a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero”, he said.


Former heads of state…


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FW de Klerk: Mandela “was a great unifier”

South African ex-President FW de Klerk, who freed Mr Mandela from prison in 1990 and shared the Nobel Peace Prize with him in 1993, said: “Tata, we shall miss you – but know that your spirit and example will always be there to guide us to the vision of a better and more just South Africa.”

Former Irish President Mary Robinson said: “His death leaves us bereft – it is felt by all of us as a personal loss.”

“We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life,” said former US President Bill Clinton.


Bill Clinton visited Mandela’s former prison cell on Robben Island in 1998

“It’s not just what he did but the way he did it that makes him so special,” saidsformer British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “He did it with a grace and a dignity that I think really inspired people everywhere.”


Campaigners and religious figures…

US civil rights leader Jesse Jackson described Mandela as a global “force for good – with his suffering and his vision, he chose at a critical moment reconciliation over retribution.”


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The Reverend Jesse Jackson: “That sense of principle, tough mind, tender heart, was Nelson Mandela”

“He was a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison,” said South Africa’s Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. “We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief.”

“Nelson Mandela’s commitment to human rights was epitomised by his unswerving resolve to stamp out racial inequality during apartheid, followed by his vital work in combating HIV/Aids in South Africa,” said Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty.

“All of us who admired him must carry on his struggle.”



Idris Elba, who played the lead role in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, said: “What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”


Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela in Mandela : Long Walk to Freedom

Another actor who played Mandela, Morgan Freeman, said the world had lost “one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve – a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind.”

“Among the many things one can say about our Madiba (Nelson Mandela’s tribal name) is that he never thought of himself as big,” said South African male choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. “He was one of us, one of the people.”


Nelson Mandela danced on stage with Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 2001

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali said: “What I will remember most about Mr Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge.”

“It was as if he was born to teach the age a lesson in humility, in humour and above all else in patience,” said Irish rock star and campaigner Bono.


Ordinary people…

Estelle Snydersfrom South Africa emailed: “Rest well. We owe you an incalculable debt of gratitude. Thank you for your graciousness, generosity of spirit and love for us. We have lost a father.”

“For me he is the hero of Africa and an icon for justice – Not just Africa alone but the world at large,” wrote Mohammed Foboi from Liberia. “Africa had lost its greatest son. Even his enemies loved him and he set an example for leaders to follow.”

Antonia from New York emailed: “I was one of the lucky ones that got to go and see him speak in 1990. Since then, he is the person I think of when I need to remember that there is no excuse for succumbing to cynicism and despair. There is a big party happening in Heaven today – receiving one the greatest men that ever lived and the greatest hero of our time.”


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