Mandela a 'giant for justice'
06 December 2013, 09:15
United Nations - UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Thursday hailed Nelson Mandela as a "giant for justice" while the UN Security Council said the South African icon had changed the lives of countless millions.
"Many around the world were influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways," Ban told reporters in tribute to Mandela, who died Thursday aged 95.
"Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration," the UN secretary-general added.
The 15-nation UN Security Council held a minute's silence and called South Africa's first black president "an inspirational leader."
In a rare statement paying tribute to an individual, the council said Mandela "transformed the lives of millions of people around the world."
The statement expressed "deepest admiration" for Mandela's moral and political leadership and said he "will forever be remembered as someone who gave up so much of his life in the struggle for freedom, so that millions could have a brighter future."
Ban met the South African anti-apartheid hero in February 2009 and said he had been particularly struck by Mandela's "selflessness and deep sense of shared purpose."
Ban said that he had repeatedly praised Mandela for his work in ending South Africa's brutal system of dividing races.
Mandela was equally insistent in saying "there are hundreds and hundreds of known, unknown people, who have contributed to the ending of apartheid," Ban said of the encounter.
"I was deeply touched and moved and inspired."
Ban said that Africa and other parts of the world had endured centuries of suffering because of colonialism.
"Only because of such great men like Nelson Mandela" have people in Africa been able "to enjoy freedom and human dignity."
Ban said he was "humbled" by Mandela's achievements.
"We have to learn from the wisdom and determination and commitment of President Mandela to make this world better for all."
"I'm deeply grateful for what he has left during his lifetime to make this world just and fair and equal," Ban said.