World leaders have started paying their last respects to one the world’s most revered leaders who passed away in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela whose life preached peace, unity and freedom became a prominent international figure, first as a leading human rights campaigner in South Africa and then as the world’s best-known political prisoner.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan in his tribute said; “The indefatigable spirit which Nelson Mandela demonstrated throughout his life will continue to inspire.”
US President Barack Obama mourned Mandela as a “profoundly good” man who “took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.”
“We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages.
“He achieved more than can be expected of any man – and today he’s gone home,” said President Obama.
In his tribute, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said “a great light has gone out in the world”.
“Nelson Mandela was not just a hero of our time, but a hero of all time.
“Through his dignity, through his triumph, (he) inspired millions,” Mr Cameron added.
Governor General of Canada, David Johnson also said, “On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, Laureen and I extend our condolences to Mr. Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, his entire family and all citizens of South Africa. Canada, a nation that granted Mr. Mandela honorary citizenship in 2001, mourns with you and the entire world today.”
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told Fairfax radio, “Nelson Mandela was one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century.”
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny paid tribute to the “gift” of Mandela, and offered the country’s deepest sympathies to the people of South Africa.
“The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe,” he said in a statement.
Former presidents of the US also extolled the virtues of the deceased world leader.
Bill Clinton tweeted a photo with Mandela with the message “I will never forget my friend Madiba.”
The Clinton foundation also released a statement saying, “Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend…All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.”
George H.W. Bush said, “Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all.”
George W. Bush said, “Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever.”
Jimmy Carter said, “Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world’s leading democracies.”
World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim issued a statement reading, “We are humbled by his leadership. We are inspired by his commitment to reconciliation. He showed us that fundamental change is possible and must be pursued when the freedom and well-being of people are at stake.
On this sad day, our thoughts are with the South African people.”
UNICEF also pointed to Mandela’s work on behalf of children, saying in a statement, “Today we have all lost a hero, a powerful champion for children.”
FIFA president Sepp Blatter also shared thoughts on Mandela saying, “He and I shared an unwavering belief in the extraordinary power of football to unite people in peace and friendship, and to teach basic social and educational values as a school of life. When he was honoured and cheered by the crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City stadium on 11 July 2010, it was as a man of the people, a man of their hearts, and it was one of the most moving moments I have ever experienced,” Blatter said.