Factbox: Twenty years of freedom for Nelson Mandela

Thu Feb 11, 2010 6:13am EST
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(Reuters) - Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrates the 20th anniversary of his release from prison on Thursday, with the country a strong democracy but still plagued by inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Here is a short summary of his life:

* EARLY LIFE - Born July 18, 1918, son of a counselor to the paramount chief of the Thembu people near Qunu in what is now Eastern Cape. He is widely known in South Africa by his clan name, Madiba.


-- Mandela devoted his life to the fight against white domination, leaving Fort Hare university in the early 1940s before completing his studies. He founded the ANC Youth League with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu

-- Mandela was among the first to advocate armed resistance to apartheid, going underground in 1961 to form the ANC's armed wing -- Umkhonto we Sizwe (the Spear of the Nation).

-- Charged with capital offences in the 1963 Rivonia Trial, his statement from the dock was his political testimony.

"I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964.


<p>African National Congress supporters hold up a poster to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release at Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison), near Paarl in Western Cape province February 11, 2010. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>