In a tribute to Nelson Mandela who died Thursday evening, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described him as “a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration, whose selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom served as an example for generations of people.”
Ban said he was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela in 2009, he said he would never forget Mandela’s deep sense of shared purpose, “When I thanked him for his life’s work, he insisted the credit belonged to others saying ‘no, it’s not only me – there are hundreds and hundreds of known, unknown people, who have contributed to the ending of apartheid'”.
Speaking to reporters at the UN Headquarters, Ban said many around the world were greatly influenced by Nelson Mandela: “He touched our lives in deeply personal ways,” he said, also stating that “his moral force was decisive in dismantling the system of apartheid,” as he strived “to build a new South Africa based on dialogue and reconciliation.”
“No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations,” Ban said, recalling his last meeting with Mandela:
Additionally, John Ashe, President of UN General Assembly described Nelson Mandela as “an international peace icon and perhaps the greatest moral leader of our time.”
In 1994, Mandela became the first democratically elected President of South Africa, embracing his former oppressors and leading the country on a new path of healing. By so doing, “President Mandela chose reconciliation over revenge, hope over despair,” Ashe said, adding “Nelson Mandela’s heroic spirit will forever remain with us all.”
The President of UN General Assembly also quoted Mandela’s words from his inaugural address when he became a head of South Africa:
“We must become bigger than we have ever been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”
The United Nations celebrate July 18, as Nelson Mandela International Day.
“Nelson Mandela Day is a celebration of the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world, and the ability to make an impact, just as Nelson Mandela did himself,” UN Security Council said later on Thursday.
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