Nelson Mandela Dead at 95


Nelson Mandela, former South African president who led his country to multiracial democracy, died at age 95. South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the news late Thursday.

“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

A state funeral will be held, and Zuma ordered all flags in the country to be flown at half-staff from Friday until the funeral. He called for mourners to behave with “the dignity and respect” that Mandela exemplified.

Imprisoned for 27 years for anti-apartheid activities, Mandela became an international icon for equality and peace in his quest to bring down white minority rule. His government helped tackle poverty and inequality while fostering racial reconciliation.

Mandela’s death comes after months of battling a series of health issues, including a recurring lung infection that led to many hospitalizations.

Following these incidents, Mandela retreated to the nation’s Eastern Cape Province and later to his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where he died.

President Barack Obama praised Mandela as an exemplary leader who had “achieved more than could be expected of any man.”

“I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example Nelson Mandela set,” he said.

Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, along with F.E. de Klerk, the Afrikaner leader who freed him from prison and negotiated the end of apartheid. In 1994, Mandela became the first black South African president in the nation’s first fully representative democratic election.

After leaving politics, he focused on his philanthropic foundation, becoming a global advocate for civil rights and speaking out about AIDS, a disease that ravaged his country during and after his presidency.

Although he left the public life in June 2004, telling his compatriots “Don’t call me, I’ll call you,”  he remained one of the world’s most admired public figures, cherished and respected by all.

Now with Mandela gone, his message of freedom and perseverance must continue to live on.

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human,” Zuma said in his address. “We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

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