Calling Him ‘Beacon of Freedom’, General Assembly Celebrates Life of Nelson Mandela in Special Tribute

19 December 2013
GA/11476

Calling Him ‘Beacon of Freedom’, General Assembly Celebrates Life of Nelson Mandela in Special Tribute

19 December 2013
General Assembly
GA/11476
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Special Meeting Dedicated to Life

 of Nelson Mandela (AM & PM)

Calling Him ‘Beacon of Freedom’, General Assembly Celebrates Life

of Nelson Mandela in Special Tribute

More than 50 Speakers Recall Late Statesman’s

Journey from Prisoner to President to Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Passionate revolutionary, apostle of peace, champion of human rights, nation builder and beacon of freedom were among the terms of endearment bestowed on former South African President Nelson Mandela during a special meeting of the General Assembly today to pay tribute to his life and memory.

Opening the tribute with the South African and African-American singing group, Thokoza, more than 50 representatives addressed the Assembly, many referring to Mr. Mandela, who died 5 December this year, by his tribal name, “Madiba”.  Touching upon his life’s numerous milestones, delegates chronicled the 27 years he spent in prison for challenging an apartheid government, his emergence into freedom in 1990, his Nobel Peace Prize, his leadership in halting racial segregation and his rise to become the first democratically elected President of South Africa. 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, describing the services held for Mr. Mandela in South Africa last week, which had occurred under heavy rain, told delegates that the weather was almost a reminder that without rain there could be no rainbow.  It was now the world’s duty to follow his lead and to follow his rainbow for the global good.

The world must also follow in his footsteps, said General Assembly President John Ashe ( Antigua and Barbuda).  “Let us remember that we too must work together to reduce hunger and injustice,” he said, “to build lasting peace and sustainable development, to stop genocide and hunger.”

Kingsley Mamabolo, the Permanent Representative of South Africa, thanked all speakers for their kindness in paying tribute to his country’s great hero.  As well, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in a video message, offered appreciation for the tribute and to Madiba for his enormous contributions to all of humanity. 

Some delegates shared personal moments they had had with Madiba.  David Dinkins, New York City’s first African-American Mayor, remembering Mr. Mandela’s visit to Gracie Mansion, described a man who was consistent, whether playing with Mr. Dinkins’ granddaughter or facing the media.

The United Kingdom’s speaker commented on that same virtue, recalling a less traditional meeting involving Prince Charles and the Spice Girls, a British singing group.  Unsurprisingly, Mr. Mandela was equally at ease talking to royalty and scantily clad female pop stars, he said.

Historic memories were also shared.  Some delegates proudly recalled their countries’ leaders hosting visits by Mr. Mandela after his release from prison.  Among them, India’s speaker recalled that during his visit, Mr. Mandela had received the Bharat Ratna, his country’s highest civilian honour.

More broadly, some speakers spoke of how Madiba had deeply inspired their communities, nations and regions.  Representatives of Timor-Leste and of Rwanda told the Assembly how his ideals had guided their respective countries forward on the path of reconciliation.

Some delegates, including Sri Lanka’s, recalled their countries’ boycott of South Africa’s apartheid regime.  Others reported days of national mourning observed by their citizens after the former President’s death.

Nigeria’s speaker called him an icon.  Mozambique’s representative called him a symbol of leadership and courage.  A United States delegate called him a giant on the world stage.  Brazil’s speaker said he was the greatest statesman of the twentieth century.

“Let us join him in his humanity and try to rid ourselves from the apartheid within ourselves,” proclaimed Syria’s speaker, on behalf of the Group of Asia-Pacific States, receiving, in response, a spontaneous round of applause.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said Mr. Mandela would forever be an icon of freedom and the most vivid example in modern times of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation after brutal oppression.  “President Mandela remains an embodiment of the conscience of the world,” he said. 

While remembering Mr. Mandela’s triumphs, many speakers underlined the obligation all people should have in order to carry on his ideals and vision in trying to build a better and more just world.

Fiji’s speaker, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the United Nations should do everything possible to pursue the goals that Mr. Mandela had struggled so long and hard to achieve.  “Whatever our handicaps, we should aspire to reach the higher ground to which he pointed us,” he said.

Pointing out that the world would be gathering next year to shape a post-2015 development agenda, he underscored Madiba’s exhortation that overcoming poverty was not a task of charity, but one of justice.  While that task could seem enormous, he cited Madiba, who had said, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”

While President Mandela was exceptional, he was also modest, said Switzerland’s representative.  Guessing at his reaction to the words just heard during the special meeting, he said Mr. Mandela probably would have said, “I am very touched by your words.  Please leave the room now and get to work.” 

Also delivering statements were representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), Gambia (on behalf of the African Group), Cuba (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Venezuela (on behalf of the Southern Common Market), Brunei Darussalam (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Saint Lucia (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Suriname (on behalf of the Union of South American Nations), Sweden(on behalf of the Nordic countries), Algeria, Morocco, China, Zambia, Argentina, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Malaysia, Spain, Guyana, Grenada, Jamaica, Mauritania, Ghana, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lesotho, Uruguay, Japan, Côte d’Ivoire, Pakistan, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Barbados, Canada, Nepal, Australia, Benin and New Zealand.

A representative of the European Union Delegation spoke, as well.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 20 December to consider reports of its Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

Background

The General Assembly met today for a special meeting dedicated to the life and memory of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

Opening Remarks

The South African and African-American singing group, Thokoza welcomed delegations, as they gathered this morning in the Trusteeship Council Chamber to commemorate the late South African President, Nelson Mandela.

JOHN ASHE, President of the General Assembly, opened the special meeting to pay tribute to the legacy of Nelson Mandela, who had moved a nation, a continent and the world around him through his actions, his words and his thoughts.  Although he had lived 27 years a captor, he had never let the jail cell limit his fierce intellect, his passion for justice, or rob him of his humanity, his dignity or his humour.  “Nelson Mandela will live in our collective memories and in our histories as a path-breaker, a history maker and an outspoken advocate for all that is better in each of us”, he stated.

As an icon of the anti-apartheid movement, Mr. Ashe said, President Mandela was truly a global statesman who had been able to forgive the seemingly unforgivable.  He recalled that “Madiba” had been confined, for 18 years on Robben Island, to a cell with a bucket for a toilet and forced to do hard labour in a quarry.  Allowed just one visitor a year for 30 minutes, he could write and receive one letter every six months.  Yet, Mr. Mandela, when released, became a global leader and beacon of hope in the larger struggle.  “Let us remember that we too must work together to reduce hunger and injustice, to build lasting peace and sustainable development, to stop genocide and hunger,” Mr. Ashe said, urging the world to now follow in his footsteps in his honour.

BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, said last week he had taken part in the service for Mr. Mandela in South Africa, joining tens of thousands in paying their respects.  The rain had come down throughout the whole day, he said, almost as a reminder that there could be no rainbow without rain. 

During the years of apartheid, he said, the Assembly had used every tool available, including sanctions, embargoes and diplomatic isolation, to bring about change.  A Special Committee against Apartheid, supported by the United Nations Centre against Apartheid and a trust fund, had also provided crucial support.  “We refused to relent,” Mr. Ban said.  In his first address to a United Nations audience upon his release, Mr. Mandela had said, “Despite the thickness of the prison walls, all of us in Robben Island could hear your voices.”

Mr. Mandela had shown that justice triumphed in the end, Mr. Ban said.  Whenever people stood up for human rights and spoke up for freedom, it was Mr. Mandela’s heritage of hope.  That was the world’s inheritance.  It was the world’s duty to follow his lead and to follow his rainbow for the global good.  “Let us remember that we can also be like him — because we too can choose […]to work toward those causes that are greater and better than our narrow interests, and in so doing, find and nurture the best in ourselves and others,” the Secretary-General said in conclusion.

Jeremiah Nyamane Kingsley Mamabolo( South Africa), thanking President Ashe for convening the special meeting, said that Nelson Mandela never fell into limbo as a leader.  It was another one of his legacies that, for the first time in South Africa’s history, people from all races, faiths, ages and income brackets had grieved as one.

“Ours began largely as a romantic kind of public mourning,” he added, with people eulogizing the dead leader and extolling his greatness.  Still, although former President Thabo Mbeki, speaking at the Oxford Synagogue in Johannesburg, agreed that the world should indeed celebrate Mandela’s life, he also stated, “We must also ask ourselves a question: what about the future?” By raising that question, Mbeki had engaged the people in what was known as a “tragic public mourning which invites the mourners into self-introspection”.

United States President Barack Obama, he continued, also had challenged the romantic mourning when he said, “With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?” Instead of offering eulogies that absolved one of responsibility, Obama’s and Mbeki’s speeches both called for “interpretive, critical mourning”.  They demanded that “we ask ourselves whether we are worthy heirs to Mandela’s inheritance.”

DAVID DINKINS, former Mayor of New York City, recalled that the year Mr. Mandela had been released from prison was when he was in office.  Mr. Mandela had come to New York and had stayed with him at Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence.  He remembered very clearly that Mr. Mandela was always the same, never bitter, whether he was playing with Mr. Dinkins’ granddaughter or facing the media.  Mr. Dinkins also noted that he had been to South Africa for many occasions, including witnessing Archbishop Desmond Tutu smilingly cast his vote.

Death was something inevitable, he continued.  When a man had done his best, he could rest, something Madiba had said 20 years ago.  Perhaps, once in a generation, a man and a movement came together for something so powerful nothing could turn him back.  It was the world’s good fortune that it came in “our lifetimes”, and that it came in the form of Nelson Mandela.  He had entered that cell a prisoner but stepped onto the world stage a free man.

He also recalled how New Yorkers were the first to welcome him, with people of all races showering him with ticker tape in a parade reserved by the city only for true heroes.  “We are the soldiers of Madiba,” he said.  “He departed us, paid in full.  Let him not look down and find any of us in arrears.”

DESMOND TUTU, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, in a video message, thanked the United Nations for its wonderful support of the anti-apartheid struggle.  “Imagine if Nelson Mandela had died in prison,” he said, recalling how the Organization had helped to release him.  Mr. Mandela went to prison angry at the awful miscarriage of justice and angry that his people’s rights to be human beings had been subverted.  Incredibly, the man who got out of prison showed a remarkable degree of magnanimity.

Pledging that South Africa would become an example of interdependence — “I am because you are” — he added that even though Mr. Mandela had not been the president of a powerful, flourishing country, world leaders had flocked to South Africa to pay respects.  “Thank you for reminding us,” he concluded, “that we have an extraordinary example to follow as we become a rainbow people of God.”

Statements

PETER THOMSON ( Fiji), speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the United Nations should do everything possible to pursue the goals that Nelson Mandela had struggled so long and hard to achieve.  “Whatever our handicaps, we should aspire to reach the higher ground to which he pointed us,” he said.  As 2014 would bring the design of the post-2015 development agenda to the forefront, all should remember Madiba’s exhortation that overcoming poverty was not a task of charity, but one of justice.  Observing that the task could seem immense, he cited Madiba, who had said, “It always seems impossible, until it’s done.”

Madiba’s long walk had ended now, he continued, but the world must carry his work forward.  As long as poverty existed and as long as good people were denied essential services, the world would not reach that higher ground.  Quoting a Madiba homily that should remain in the mind of every diplomat as he or she left their country for meaningful multilateral service at the United Nations, he said, “appearances matter and remember to smile.”

Mohammad Khazaee ( Iran), speaking for the Non-Aligned Movement, said that Nelson Mandela had symbolized the triumph of hope over despair and peace over conflict.  While he had been a champion of African liberation and unity, he had also been a figure of international standing who had a profound impact on people across the world.  He had helped set a standard for a new culture of peace, nationally and internationally.

There was a special relationship between Mr. Mandela and the Movement, he said, which had actively supported the struggle against apartheid and colonialism since its inception.  Mr. Mandela went on to become one of the great leaders of the Movement.  He would continue to be an integral part of South Africa and a source of inspiration for many generations.

Mamadou Tangara ( Gambia), speaking for the African Group, said that no amount of time would be adequate to chronicle the tremendous lessons that could be drawn from Mandela’s rich life.  “We mourn Mandela’s demise but celebrate his inspiring journey,” he added.  Speaking a few days ago at the African Group’s special meeting honouring the life and legacy of President Mandela, he had reminded his colleagues that Madiba had fought a good fight on the road to freedom.

A great Latin American leader, he continued, once said that it was better to die on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees.  Mr. Mandela had epitomized the qualities of a true liberator.  For many he was an objective strategist or tactician with a high degree of discipline, patience, tolerance and tact.  Fascinatingly, his optimism and tender nature had not, in any way, undermined his steadfastness.  The spirit of the man being honoured today would live on forever.

Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez ( Cuba), speaking for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said Mr. Mandela was a symbol of dignity and freedom and an inspiration for those struggling for a just world.  The ideals defended by Mr. Mandela would always be in CELAC’s dreams for building a strong region. 

Mr. Mandela never gave up his ideas when he was imprisoned, he said.  Throughout his life, he was able to lead his people knowing that the new South Africa could never be built on hatred.

Samuel Moncada (Venezuela), speaking for the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), said Mr. Mandela had been a tireless fighter for human rights.  His legacy would live on forever, he said, extending condolences to the Mandela family and South Africa. 

His indelible footprint, his teachings, his ideals, his example and the conviction that, with perseverance and commitment, victory could be achieved would always be present, enabling a renewed South Africa to continue being built by future generations.  “Let us all follow his example,” he said.

ABDUL GHAFAR ISMAIL (Brunei Darussalam), speaking for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said Mr. Mandela had been an icon of the anti-apartheid movement, of hope, peace and reconciliation.  He had made a great impact on the global efforts to promote mutual understanding while fighting discrimination, intolerance and violence.

Mr. Mandela’s work in addressing racism, poverty and inequality and in fostering racial reconciliation had been emulated by many and had become part of the agenda at the United Nations, he said.  He expressed support for the designation of 18 July by the Organization as Mandela Day to promote global peace and to celebrate his legacy.  Mr. Mandela’s lifelong struggle against injustice had transformed him into an international hero.  He might be gone from the world, but his legacy would continue, he concluded.

Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation, said that Mr. Mandela had set an example for the international community of what to strive for and how to strive for it.  He had worked tirelessly for reconciliation and social transformation.  He not only fought against apartheid in South Africa but had also taught people around the world about the moral force of democracy.  For millions of people inside and outside South Africa, he had represented the struggle against racism.

The European Union, he underscored, stood side by side with South Africa in a relationship based on strong shared values.  The late statesman’s life would continue to be an important source of inspiration for the international community’s work at the General Assembly.  Mr. Mandela had talked about how “a fundamental concern for others” was necessary in every aspect of work.  There was no better way to honour his legacy than to uphold his values.

Menissa Rambally ( Saint Lucia), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that on the fateful day of Nelson Mandela’s passing, the world had experienced a collective pause.  The profound sense of loss felt by the people of the Caribbean region had also been felt across the world.  Mr. Mandela’s quiet dignity and steadfastness had been a source of great strength.  He was certainly the premier human rights defender of the times.

The Caribbean region, she added, had always been consistent in its support for the struggle waged by Mr. Mandela against apartheid, joining in the global efforts to bring an end to that regime.  “We take pride in knowing that those efforts played a pivotal role in the demise of apartheid and the emergence of an inclusive South Africa,” she said.  Remembering how President Mandela had exhibited his “enviable dancing skills” at a conference in St. Lucia, she said that it was an example of his dynamism and ability to connect with people.

Kitty Sweeb (Suriname), speaking for the Union of South American Nations, said the world had lost a momentous role model, a giant for justice, human rights, equality, freedom and democracy, peace, compassion, unity, forgiveness, reconciliation and a down-to-earth humanitarian.  His many lessons would be remembered, she said.  “He showed us what human beings can attain not just with words but with the power of determination.”

He also taught the world the power of action, education and ideas.  Most importantly, he understood the ties that bound the human spirit, ubuntu, as the spirit of togetherness was known in South Africa.  His tremendous legacy would continue to inspire the subregion in its pursuit of peace, integration, unity and equality.

Signe Burgstaller (Sweden), speaking for the Nordic countries, said the harshest conditions Mr. Mandela endured and his emergence as a leader would be a role model for all working for peace and justice.

Sweden was the first country visit Mr. Mandela made outside Africa after his prison release, she said.  Recognizing his invaluable contribution to the peaceful termination of the South African apartheid regime, the South African leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  He would leave behind a legacy and values all should strive for at the United Nations.

Bashar Ja’afari ( Syria), speaking for the Group of Asia-Pacific States, said that the international community was gathered today to celebrate the life of a great emancipator and leader.  Mr. Mandela had lived a life in which he confronted injustice and called for peace and non-violence and campaigned for many noble causes.  The late President had believed in the good nature of every human being and that if people could learn to hate they could also be taught to love.  He had once stated, “I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies.”  Emphasizing that Mr. Mandela had lived his life building bridges between people and nations, he urged the Assembly, “Let us join him in his humanity and try to rid ourselves from the apartheid within ourselves.”

Mourad Benmehidi ( Algeria) said that Africa was mourning one of its great sons, and Algeria had observed eight days of mourning.  During his country’s freedom struggle, Algeria had been privileged to receive a testimony of solidarity from Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress.  Noting that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had expressed gratitude for the help of the United Nations in the apartheid struggle, he said that it was under the presidency of Algeria in the twenty-ninth session in 1974, that the delegation of the apartheid regime was denied the right to sit among the civilized nations.  Given the numerous delegations paying tribute even though they were not part of the apartheid struggle, it was clear that Mandela’s legacy would continue at United Nations Headquarters.

Mohammed Loulichki ( Morocco) said his country’s King said Mr. Mandela had shown great dignity and tolerance.  The universal tribute today told a great deal of the impact the leader had had on South Africa and on the entire humanity.  He had compassion for the oppressed and oppressors alike.  He had chosen non-violence and had succeeded, due in part to his vision.  He vanquished apartheid and had established a new country with the inclusion of those who had been disenfranchised, going on to lead South Africa.  He also gave the world a rare lesson in democracy, he said, and he would be missed.

ASOKE KUMAR MUKERJI ( India) said the world had lost an apostle of peace and non-violence.  Reflecting the degree of love and respect he enjoyed by the people of India, his country had observed State mourning for five days.  Mr. Mandela was a household name and a living example of human strength and courage in the face of brute force and gross injustice.  He was the last of the giants who led the world’s struggles against colonialism.  When visiting India in 1990, Mr. Mandela was awarded the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.  Madiba was one of the most influential personalities of the century, and his life had taught the world the true meaning of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Liu Jieyi ( China) said that Mr. Mandela had led South Africa into victory over apartheid through arduous efforts making a historical contribution to the birth of a new country.  He won the respect of not just the people of his country but also that of all the people of the world.  Throughout his life, he had safeguarded the dignity of African people and dedicated his life to the continent’s progress.  Mandela had pushed for friendly Sino-South African cooperation in many aspects, and China had lost a good friend.  The tradition of that friendship continued, and this past March during his visit to Africa, the President of China had characterized the relationship between China and Africa as truthful, honest and genuine.

CHIBAULA DAVID SILWAMBA ( Zambia) said Zambians were mourning Mr. Mandela, conveying their condolences, both to the family and to the people of South Africa, with whom they had stood “shoulder to shoulder” during that country’s struggle against apartheid.  Recalling that Zambia had been the Headquarters of the African National Congress for years, he said that Zambia’s first President, Kenneth David Kaunda, had been instrumental in supporting the Congress’s leaders, even during the bombings his country had experienced at the hands of the apartheid regime.  Noting that Zambia was the first country Mr. Mandela had visited following his 1990 release from prison, he quoted former President Kaunda, saying: “Madiba has left a legacy of unity and reconciliation, not only to South Africa and the African continent, but to the world at large.”

Sofia Mesquita Borges (Timor-Leste) said that Nelson Mandela’s remarkable legacy for the world was that forgiveness was stronger than hatred.  Every single human being had the right to develop his own potential.  Like so many people across the world, Timor-Leste was also inspired by his example.  During her country’s brutal occupation, its people gained much strength from his example during the darkest moments.  Mr. Mandela also inspired the country after independence by teaching the country the value of forgiveness after a devastating war.  Inspired by that, she added, “O ur first step was to reconcile with our former occupier.”  Mandela showed that it had to be done and it could only be done.  Half a world away, on half an island, Madiba would always remain a hero.

Mark Lyall Grant (United Kingdom) said that as news of Mr. Mandela’s death spread, the international community had witnessed an outpouring of emotion — “grief at his passing but also gratitude that we could witness his remarkable journey from prisoner to activist to leader.”  His example humbled everyone.  The international community would always remember Mr. Mandela’s triumph against adversity, going from incarceration to the highest political office of his country, choosing reconciliation over retribution.  Like many others, he too had personal memories of the late President from his own posting to South Africa.  Mr. Mandela’s warmth and vision shone through every meeting.  One of the less traditional meetings involved Prince Charles and the Spice Girls.  Unsurprisingly, Mr. Mandela was equally at ease talking to royalty and scantily clad female pop stars.  It was now the international community’s responsibility to uphold his legacy and ensure dignity and equality for all.

María CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) said Mr. Mandela was an icon who stood against racism and segregation and for human rights.  A passionate revolutionary, he faced violence and never abandoned his principles or his compatriots in the struggle for a utopia in the cruel face of apartheid.  To truly honour the South African leader, his legacy must be converted into action in the struggle for peace, democracy and human rights to create a just and inclusive world.

Alexander A. Pankin ( Russian Federation) said Mr. Mandela was a towering figure, an outstanding politician and statesman.  His name was connected with modern history of the entire world.  His own difficult life path would remain in the annals of history as a demonstrative of strength and a dedication to non-violence and determination.  His country supported South Africans and the Mandela family in the difficult times following Mr. Mandela’s death.

Abulkalam Abdul Momen ( Bangladesh) said Mr. Mandela’s departure was a loss to the global community, yet his spirit, inspiration and hope of overcoming racism and injustice were a beacon.  To the millions of people in Bangladesh, the South African leader was an icon.  During his visit in 1997 to Bangladesh, Mr. Mandela had said to the world that freedom of Palestine was imperative.  Mr. Mandela had taken leave of the world, but his undying spirit would continue to inspire people to better human beings.  He was a fearless liberator of a nation and his legacy would live on, he said.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said Mr. Mandela would forever be an icon of freedom and the most vivid example in modern times of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation after brutal oppression.  The South African leader gave hope, and his legacy would continue to give hope to many people.  The Palestinian people had been inspired by Mr. Mandela’s successful struggle against apartheid in their own struggle to end Israeli occupation.  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had ordered flags to be lowered to half‑mast across the State of Palestine and declared a day of mourning the Friday after Mr. Mandela’s death.  President Abbas hailed the leader as a symbol of freedom from colonialism and occupation.  Palestinians would always be grateful for his ardent support for their cause and for being “the most courageous and important of those who supported us”.  He recalled that in a December 1997 address during the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, Mr. Mandela had said freedom was incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.  The Palestinians’ reverence for Mr. Mandela had been displayed through various memorial services.  “President Mandela remains an embodiment of the conscience of the world,” he said.  Justice was bestowed in South Africa, and it would be bestowed in Palestine.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz ( Bolivia) said that the entire world had come together, as it rarely did, to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela, whose name was synonymous with reconciliation and dialogue.  Respect for him went beyond social and geographical divisions.  At the same time, there was an attempt to void the meaning of his life and struggle.  It was important to remember the apartheid against which he struggled.  A man of integrity, a revolutionary and a socialist, Mr. Mandela had left the international community a number of tasks to be completed by the United Nations.  “If we want to remember Mandela, let us put an end to colonialism, which still exists in many parts of the world,” he said.  Mr. Mandela had asked the international community to support the struggle of the people of Palestine for self-determination.  He had also called on world leaders to eradicate poverty, cautioning that the freedoms which democracy brought would remain empty shells if they did not mean tangible improvements in the material lives of ordinary citizens.

HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia), aligning himself with ASEAN, conveyed his deepest sympathies to Mr. Mandela’s family, as well as the Government and people of South Africa.  Praising President Mandela as a man who epitomized dignity, courage and dedication, he said his strength of character and leadership had benefitted South Africa in the struggle against the apartheid regime.  Malaysia viewed him as a “towering” example of peace and conciliation that all should strive to emulate.  “A tiger dies leaving behind his stripes; a man dies leaving behind his name,” he said.  President Mandela left behind a name and an extraordinary legacy that the world would never forget.

ROMAN OYARZUN MARCHESI ( Spain) said that it was fitting that the General Assembly was honouring Mandela today because nobody embodied the values that the Organization stood for as much as he did.  He had chosen the most difficult path — the one of generosity.  He left a tremendous legacy and the belief that it was possible to turn a dream into reality.  A symbol of liberty, he was a statesman who brought democracy to South Africa.  He represented the best of mankind.  By his denial and self-sacrifice, he had been able to drive national reconciliation forward in his land.  Spain had its own experience of political transition and understood the challenges Mr. Mandela had faced in guiding South Africa to democracy.  During his visit to Spain in 1992, he had stated that the world needed peace.

George Wilfred Talbot ( Guyana) said that his country recognized in Nelson Mandela — a statesman, a leader, an elder and a father.  He was a giant in the defence of human rights, embodying the noblest virtues of the human spirit — patience and triumph in the face of unspeakable adversity.  That incomparable soul had chosen forgiveness over bitterness.  Through his own long struggle for freedom, Mr. Mandela had fostered the liberation of millions.  “We are grateful that he walked with us,” he said.

DENIS ANTOINE ( Grenada) said history would record Nelson Mandela arguably as the greatest public figure of the twentieth century.  Quoting Grenada’s Prime Minister, he said Mr. Mandela’s eternal legacy would be about the importance of forgiveness, reconciliation and respect for all people.  In all those areas, Mr. Mandela had led where others should aim to follow.  Grenada joined its South African siblings in mourning the South African leader’s passing and celebrating his life, which served as a beacon of hope to humanity.  Mr. Mandela’s dignified and gracious presence had left the world.  His work here was done, but his legacy would live on forever.

Eugène-Richard Gasana ( Rwanda) said that the sacrifices Nelson Mandela had made for the freedom of his people and his example of forgiveness constituted a tremendous legacy.  The former President had not just been a symbol of hope for South Africans.  Through his struggle, he inspired not only the country or the continent but the entire world.  The price he had to pay living in prison for 27 years had not prevented him from believing in a better future.  A nation builder in a country divided by colonialists, he had paved the way for a young democratic nation to flourish, giving “the former global pariah” a stature it could not have dreamed of.  When Rwanda emerged from its genocide, inspired by the example of South Africans under Mr. Mandela, it had also rejected the notion that vengeance was the way to build the country.  Instead Rwanda chose to place reconciliation at the heart of its journey to national recovery.  As the international community mourned the loss of a great leader and celebrated his life, he thanked the South African people and Mr. Mandela’s family for sharing him with the world.

Shorna-Kay Marie Richards ( Jamaica) said that Madiba, or “Tata” as he was affectionately known, had the ability to make the international community feel it was one human family.  Despite his celebrity and the feeling that he belonged to the entire world, it was fitting to remember that he was, first and foremost, a father, husband, and grandfather.  His family’s loss was even more acute.  Acknowledging the significant role he had played even after he retired, she expressed special condolences to South Africa.  Jamaicans felt a special bond with Mr. Mandela.  Jamaica’s anti-apartheid activism had preceded its own independence from the United Kingdom.  The struggle of the people of South Africa had been taken up in Jamaican music by artists such as Bob Marley.  “Mandela’s struggle became our struggle,” she said.  Mr. Mandela had always insisted that the focus should be, not on him, but on the work that needed to be done, on preserving the planet and protecting the vulnerable.  “Mandela’s rest had come.  Our long walk continues,” she concluded.

Jiddou Jiddou (Mauritania), associating himself with the statements made by the Non‑Aligned Movement, Group of 77 and the African Group, said that Mandela’s heart was full of humanity.  He embodied the spirit of courage and reconciliation.  On behalf of his country, he expressed condolences to South Africa and its people for the loss of its great leader.

KEN KANDA ( Ghana) praised President Mandela’s “unwavering” quest for freedom and justice, saying his relentless fight against apartheid saw the birth of a free nation.  He recalled his tremendous efforts to steer South Africa through the fragile and difficult period of national forgiveness.  Had the international community heeded South Africans’ cries, perhaps the atrocities committed by that notorious regime could have been avoided.  He hoped that lessons had been learned and that never again, a group of people would repress another because of colour or religion.  Recalling his honour at having served Madiba in Ghana in 1991, he said: “That cherished memory has lived with me and will always be with me.”

Emilia Gatto (Italy), aligning herself with the European Union Delegation, said that what was most striking about Mr. Mandela was his ability to search patiently for useful compromises without renouncing his values.  He always chose the best and most pragmatic solution.  His unforgettable gestures of reconciliation were deep political choices.  The world had lost a great icon of fortitude and compassion.

Mohammed Abdulhamid M. Khan ( Saudi Arabia) said that Mr. Mandela was a rare man and a beacon for everyone struggling for justice.  His struggle for justice and reconciliation claimed a lot from his life.  The South African people would continue the victory of the late statesman by forging ahead in the path of justice.

Levent Eler ( Turkey) said that it was not only South Africa that had lost its dearest son, but humanity itself that had lost an apostle of truth.  The prominent role played by that legendary leader would inspire future generations.  He was a man of tremendous moral courage.  He not only ended apartheid in South Africa, but showed his people the path of reconciliation.  Such achievements made him one of the most remarkable statesmen of the twentieth century.  The international community would always cherish his immense contributions.

Rosemary A. DiCarlo (United States), calling Mr. Mandela a giant on the world stage, said nothing honoured his memory more than South Africa now being in a position to build a bright and prosperous future for all.  His bravery was remarkable.  He had used his years in prison to learn about the hopes, beliefs and fears of those who had put him there.  After he emerged, he had been able to negotiate and communicate with his adversaries and, in time, lead them.  He had turned apartheid in South Africa into a rainbow.  When Mr. Mandela first visited New York in 1990, more than 750,000 people had lined the streets to greet him.  Throughout the course of his life, he had enshrined his ideals in laws and institutions.  As a community of nations, all must continue on his noble quest.

Kelebone Maope ( Lesotho) said that during South Africa’s struggle for liberation, Lesotho played its traditional role of providing refuge to those who were oppressed in their own countries.  It had made its educational facilities available to young South Africans who had to be trained for their future role in a free South Africa.  Today, Lesotho and South Africa had excellent political relations.  The sacrifices endured by both countries had not been in vain, yet both countries faced enormous economic and social challenges.  Mr. Mandela led a struggle not just against racial inequality, but against all forms of oppression and worked for democracy and human dignity for everyone.  The South African leader had set an example of forgiveness instead of revenge as he took the lead in national reconciliation.

Paul Seger ( Switzerland) said that the speeches of the day had eloquently summed up everything he had to say.  So he had asked himself, “What would Mandela have said to us today?”  However, the former President was not just an exceptional person; he was also a modest person.  He would have said, “I am very touched by your words.  Please leave the room now and get to work.”  The temperature of the world was measured in Celsius and Fahrenheit.  It was now time to measure the temperature of the world in justice.

Cristina Carrion ( Uruguay) said that Mr. Mandela was a great pacifist in his search for equality and brotherhood.  Expressing the profound condolences of her country to South Africa, she said that the late statesman had left the international community with a legacy of values.  His personal sacrifice and his adherence to social justice reflected the most genuine ideal of living in a democracy.

KAZUYOSHI UMEMOTO ( Japan) praised Mr. Mandela’s unwavering devotion to human dignity and national unity.  World leaders admired his selfless and unyielding fight for freedom and his pursuit of national unity.  Despite his own 27-year imprisonment, he had promoted reconciliation rather than vengeance.  His unwavering conviction and actions to pursue national unity and future prosperity were an example for the people around the globe, including the United Nations, working toward national reconciliation.  Mr. Mandela had a strong connection with Japan, which he had visited three times, and had made a deep impact on its people.  Crown Prince Naruhito and former Prime Minister Yasuko Fukuda had attended the national memorial service to express their deepest respect for the universal values represented by Mr. Mandela and to pay special tribute to the man who touched the hearts of the Japanese people.

Youssoufou Bamba ( C ôte d’Ivoire) said that Mr. Mandela had given the gift of himself for the cause of justice, and he had left his fellow countrymen a united and reconciled nation.  The words he had spoken at his trial, after which he was condemned to a life of labour, were telling.  He had told the courtroom how much he cherished the ideal of a free society, adding, “It is an ideal I hope to live for, but if need be, it is an ideal I am ready to die for.”  Those words should serve as an inspiration for all people who were still struggling for freedom.  Nelson Mandela was not dead; he still lived in the hearts and minds of the international community.  All humanity would remember the man was always smiling.  South Africans must stop crying and rejoice that they had given the world such a great man.

Palitha T. B. Kohona (Sri Lanka) recollecting his own childhood, said that as a school boy in Sri Lanka, he grew up impressed by Mr. Mandela’s fortitude and outraged by his incarceration of almost three decades isolated in a brutal prison.  He was proud of the then Prime Minister who spoke up against apartheid South Africa, despite the fact that it was a lucrative market for Sri Lankan tea.  After his release from prison, Mr. Mandela had impressed the world by converting his oppressor into a collaborator.  He was a hero from a mould that he himself created.

Antonio de Aguiar Patriota ( Brazil) said Mr. Mandela had inspired the fight against racism in Brazil, which had the largest black population outside Africa.  Mr. Mandela was a hero, and true heroes did not conform to the status quo.  Many of those paying tribute to Madiba had stood beside his jailers.  Yet, the former President’s example had inspired the world to reject unilateralism and embrace multilateralism in the spirit of justice and equality.  He was the greatest statesman of the twentieth century and his courage would be remembered.

The representative of Pakistan said Mr. Mandela had galvanized his nation and many other nations.  His death had united people and nations once again, with more than 100 leaders travelling to South Africa to pay homage, including Pakistan’s President.  Stating that he was proud to have lived at a time when Mr. Mandela was alive, he said that Mr. Mandela’s memory would serve as a beacon for coming generations in their quest for justice.

Yusra Khan ( Indonesia) recalled that during Mr. Mandela’s visits to Indonesia, he had spoken about the very similar experiences of colonialism that South Africa and Indonesia shared and his vision for a unified South Africa.  On a lighter note, President Mandela was a global ambassador of Indonesia’s batik as he was always seen in a batik shirt that came to be known as a Madiba shirt.  The best way to honour Madiba’s legacy was to bring about a world free of injustice and oppression.

Vusumuzi Ntonga ( Zimbabwe) said that despite suffering much oppression themselves, the people of Zimbabwe had persevered in supporting the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.  Mandela had emerged from prison to lead his country without bitterness or anger.  His leadership had inspired many women and men to join him.  He was the emblematic champion of human rights.  The General Assembly had called for Mr. Mandela’s release, despite those who had chosen their countries’ selfish economic benefit rather than justice for the people of South Africa.  He said he hoped that the ideals the late President had been prepared to die for would be instructive for generations to come.

Abiodun Richards Adejola ( Nigeria) said Mr. Mandela had been a bridge builder and icon.  He was a father of a nation and an African patriot.  His legacy would remain firmly planted in the hearts and minds of all.  While celebrating his life, the world must learn from his courage and build on his principles on equality and dignity of mankind. 

António Gumende ( Mozambique) called Mr. Mandela one of the most iconic African leaders and a symbol of leadership and courage in fighting injustice.  His high moral standing had echoed across the continent, and the triumph of the South African peoples’ struggle to end apartheid had ushered in a new era of peace and stability.  Mozambique had been privileged to receive Mr. Mandela in one of his first visits after being released from prison. 

JULIETTE RILEY ( Barbados), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had rejoiced with the world when Mr. Mandela was finally released from prison.  He had not emerged embittered and twisted with hate.  Instead, he was determined to ensure South Africa would emerge from apartheid as peacefully as possible.  The South African leader had shown how forgiveness and reconciliation could be powerful tools in changing lives and the destiny of countries.  Pleased that the great son of Africa and the world had been recognized by the international community and the Organization, he said that the Parliament of Barbados had paid a special tribute to Mr. Mandela on 10 December.  Flags had been flown at half‑staff until the day of his burial, and a special ecumenical service had been held on 13 December.  A condolence book had been opened for all Barbadians to express their condolences to Mr. Mandela’s family and the Government and people of South Africa.  That book would be transmitted to the South African Government in the coming weeks.

Michael Douglas Grant ( Canada) said that the world had lost one of its great leaders and Canada had lost a close friend.  Mr. Mandela’s name evoked equality, reconciliation and justice.  His country had shared Mandela’s vision and hopes for freedom for all human beings.  The former President had been given honorary Canadian citizenship, the first living person to receive such a designation.  Canadians had adopted him as one of their own.  With grace and humility, he showed the world how to fight against injustice.

Durga Prasad Bhattarai ( Nepal) said, “We all knew that the day was coming.”  Yet, when the day came, it was hard to believe that a towering source of inspiration, beloved Madiba, was no more.  The instant outpouring of love from around the world transcended nations and ideologies and gender and all other barriers.  He had become ageless in the minds of people.  Mr. Mandela was a household name among Nepalese people, an icon of undefeatable ideals.  Nepal had been a member and later Vice-Chair of the United Nations anti-apartheid committee and considered the former Statesman a good friend.  His demise was an irreparable loss for the world.

ANASTASIA CARAYANIDES ( Australia) said that Mandela would forever be remembered as a moral leader, not just a political leader.  When the fight against apartheid was won, he turned to reconciliation.  He was one of the most gracious leaders of the current era.  Through his personal example, he not only transformed his country but people around the globe.  Quoting the late President, she said, “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedoms of others.”  While the world might not see another Mandela, he had inspired countless people to live the best lives they could.

Jean-Francis Régis Zinsou ( Benin) said that Mandela’s determination accepted no compromises on the basic principles of humanity.  He made a difference between the South Africa of yesterday, sanctioned by the international community, and the South Africa of today, a full partner in the emerging continent.  From a young lawyer fighting against apartheid, he journeyed to the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1993. That was a unique voyage and should inspire all.  He brought humanity to the best expression of itself.

The representative of New Zealand called Mr. Mandela one of the world’s greatest statesman, embodying many of the principles of the United Nations Charter and representing the values of forgiveness and reconciliation.  New Zealand had been honoured to welcome Mr. Mandela during his 1995 visit.  New Zealand and South Africa’s most striking moments had been on the rugby field, he said, recalling the site of President Mandela donning a Springbok jersey during the World Cup final in 1995 against New Zealand’s All Blacks and presenting a trophy to the victorious South African team captain.  “That one act of both triumph and reconciliation said so much about who Nelson Mandela was,” he said.  History would remember his name, actions, words, reconciliation and forgiveness.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.