Former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95.
Mandela was charged with high treason in 1956, but following a four-year trial, the charges were dropped. He spent 27 years in prison after being convicted in 1962 of incitement and leaving the country illegally, according to BBC News. After being freed from prison in 1990, he went on to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994.
“He is now resting,” South African President Jacob Zuma said. “He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”
In preparation for a state funeral to be held in the coming days, Zuma called for mourners to “conduct themselves with ‘the dignity and respect’ that Mandela personified,” according to NBC News.
Tributes to Mandela began as soon as the news broke, according to the Chicago Tribune:
UK Prime Minister David Cameron called Mandela “a hero of our time”. “A great light has gone out in the world,” he said.
Praise also came from African leaders. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said the death “will create a huge vacuum that will be difficult to fill in our continent.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said Mandela was “one of the most honorable figures of our time … a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence.”
“Today a great freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela has died, one of the world’s most important symbols of freedom,” said Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior official of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas group, calling Mandela “one of the biggest supporters of our cause.”
In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro declared three days of national mourning.
President Obama called Mandela “a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” the president said, according to the White House blog. “So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.”
Watch Obama’s remarks here:
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