World honors Mandela as champion of freedom and reconciliation

Thu Dec 5, 2013 11:56pm EST
 
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(Reuters) - Nelson Mandela was hailed on Thursday as a champion of reconciliation who "achieved more than could be expected of any man," as people the world over mourned his death and celebrated his triumphant fight against apartheid in South Africa.

"Today he's gone home, and 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," U.S. President Barack Obama said of Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president.

Obama, who himself made history when he was elected in 2008 as America's first black president, noted his first involvement in anything political was a protest against apartheid, the system of white rule in South Africa.

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," said Obama, who is expected to go to South Africa for Mandela's state funeral. The flag over the White House was lowered to half-staff after Mandela's death.

"Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time," British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter. "A great light has gone out in the world.

A somber South African President Jacob Zuma, announcing that Mandela died at his Johannesburg home on Thursday after a prolonged lung infection, said, "Our people have lost a father.

"Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love," Zuma added.

Mourners gathered outside Mandela's home and spontaneous tributes sprang up around the world.

The famed Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, which Mandela visited in 1990, lit its marquee with the words: "In memory of Nelson Mandela ... He changed our world."   Continued...

 
South Africa's President Nelson Mandela is seen in this August 1996 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings/Files