Democracy owes Mandela 'vast, lasting debt'

2013-12-06 10:27
Former president Nelson Mandela. (File, AFP)

Former president Nelson Mandela. (File, AFP)

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EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton says each time she met former president Nelson Mandela "his gentle strength and undimmed passion confirmed my conviction that democrats everywhere owe him a vast and lasting debt".

Brussels - The worldwide outpouring of respect, admiration and awe for South African leader Nelson Mandela flowed through the early morning hours of Friday.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said that each time she met him, "his gentle strength and undimmed passion confirmed my conviction that democrats everywhere owe him a vast and lasting debt".

 "He showed people in every continent that the moral force of democracy could overcome the barren might of tyranny," she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed Mandela as an example for humanity whose legacy will inspire people worldwide.

"Even many years in prison could not break Nelson Mandela or make him bitter - his message of reconciliation ultimately led to a new, better South Africa," Merkel said.

 Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott called Mandela "one of the great figures of Africa, arguably one of the great figures of the last century".

 French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who oversaw the introduction of sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid era, said South Africa had lost a "father" and a "pillar of the struggle for liberty regained."

Respect for human rights

 European leaders Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Union, emphasized the message of Mandela's life beyond his role in defeating apartheid.

 His life represented the fight against racism, political violence and intolerance, and for justice, freedom and respect for human rights, they said in a joint statement.

"He taught us all a major lesson in reconciliation, political transition and social transformation," they said.

 "Only a person with his profound humanity, moral integrity and authority and clear vision for the future of his country, could have achieved this."

Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said he wished the world had more leaders like Mandela. "South Africa today loses its father, the world loses a hero," he said.

 Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo noted that Mandela had "sacrificed a big part of his life to free his people".

 "Madiba embodies for many the idea that you can change the course of events and that a better world remains possible," Di Rupo said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.

Read more on:    eu  |  nelson mandela  |  catherine ashton

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