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World weeps: Global tributes, goodbyes to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela

People gathered in cities around the world to make their own personal tributes to Nelson Mandela on Friday, leaving flowers and setting up makeshift shrines in an outpouring of emotion for South Africa's anti-apartheid icon.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2013 22:33 IST
Nelson Mandela,apartheid,Jacob Zuma

People gathered in cities around the world to make their own personal tributes to Nelson Mandela on Friday, leaving flowers and setting up makeshift shrines in an outpouring of emotion for South Africa's anti-apartheid icon.

South Africa's first black president died at the age of 95 early on Friday in the company of his family at home after years of declining health. The news was announced on TV by current President Jacob Zuma.

"This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son, our people have lost a father… Fellow South Africans, Nelson Mandela brought us together and it is together that we will bid him farewell," Zuma said, adding that Mandela would receive a state funeral and flags would fly at half-mast.

From Beijing to Kiev to London, members of the public offered spontaneous celebrations of Mandela's life to sit alongside official displays of mourning following his death aged 95.

A statue of Mandela outside the British parliament was the focus for one of the biggest tributes, while mourners left floral offerings at South African embassies around the globe in a sign of his far-reaching influence.

"It's amazing how one person made so much change," said Joan Foster, 51, from London, as she left a bunch of flowers in Parliament Square.

People also left South Africa scarves, candles and portraits at the foot of the huge bronze statue. One woman taped a picture of Mandela to the stone plinth next to where his name is carved.

One card read: "Thank you for the sacrifices you made for all of us", while another said: "May God shine light on your homecoming in heaven. Rest in Peace Mr Mandela."

London Mayor Boris Johnson declared that the square was "now a garden of remembrance for those wanting to leave floral tributes."

"This man brought together a nation that was deeply divided, and he really brought it together. That, in my opinion, makes him a true legend," said Harry, another mourner in the square from Scotland, who gave just his first name.

Flowers were also left near a bust of Mandela outside the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank of the River Thames.

Hundreds of people lined up to pay tributes at South Africa House, the country's embassy in London, which sits on the corner of the famed Trafalgar Square.

Prime Minister David Cameron signed a book of condolence set up at the embassy in which he ended with the biblical quote: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Queen Elizabeth II's daughter Princess Anne also attended the embassy.

Books of condolence were also set up in Brixton, a south London borough with a large black population that Mandela visited in 1996, and in the Scottish city of Glasgow.

Many countries ordered their flags to be flown at half mast, as did the European Union in Brussels.

In the Chinese capital Beijing, people left huge wreaths of flowers outside the South African embassy. College students also left bunches of yellow flowers by a photo of Mandela set up in Hengyang, central Hunan province.

In Paris, an enormous portrait of Mandela was displayed on the facade of the Quai d'Orsay, the palatial 19th-century building that houses the French foreign ministry on the banks of the River Seine.

Statesmen, resistance leaders, Nobel laureates and prisoners of conscience have died before, but never has one man united such global unity in honoring his passing.

World leaders queued up to issue solemn tributes to the 95-year-old anti-apartheid hero who became South Africa's first democratic president.

"He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages," Barack Obama, America's first black president, said in a deliberate echo of an early tribute paid to Abraham Lincoln, the president who emancipated the slaves.

In a rare tribute for a foreigner, Obama ordered US flags at the White House and other public buildings flown at half-mast until Monday.

Over and over, leaders returned to the dignity Mandela displayed during his long imprisonment by South Africa's former racist regime and then later, when he led his country to majority rule.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon declared Mandela a "giant for justice."

"Many around the world were influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways," he said.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sent her personal condolences to Mandela's family, saying she "remembers with great warmth" her meetings with a man who "worked tirelessly for the good of his country."

Prime Minister David Cameron, who in 2006 apologised for what he said were the "mistakes" of his Conservative Party in its response to apartheid in Britain's former colony, said: "A great light has gone out in the world."

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in China on an official visit, said Mandela would "long be an inspiration to all of humanity" as his government also ordered flags to fly at half-mast.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed the anti-apartheid icon as a "true Gandhian" who would continue to inspire future generations after his death, while Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan dubbed Mandela "one of mankind's greatest liberators."

The Indian government announced a five-day state mourning as a mark of respect to Mandela.

A decision to this effect was taken at a special meeting of the Union Cabinet, which condoled the death of the anti-apartheid icon. "Mandela was the tallest leader of not only his generation but possibly this entire paradigm. The role that he personally played in dismantling the apartheid is something exemplary," information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said after the meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised Mandela as "one of the greatest politicians in modern times" and a man who never betrayed his convictions.

And Israel's leaders recognised him as a champion of peace despite his tireless advocacy of the Palestinian cause.

Retired political figures who remembered Mandela during his 27 years of imprisonment or worked with him after his 1990 release were also effusive.

Former US president Bill Clinton tweeted a picture of himself with his "friend," and said: "Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings."

"Over the past 24 years Madiba taught us how to come together and to believe in ourselves and each other. He was a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison," said Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

In his home country, most newspapers published their headlines in black, in a reflection of the deep sense of loss brought by the death of "Madiba", a father figure to millions of South Africans.

"The World Weeps," said the national daily The Star.

First Published: Dec 06, 2013 22:29 IST