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Nelson Mandela dies at 95: Former South African president loses long battle with illness

The world contains many thousands of political prisoners but in the last 50 years only one of them, Nelson Mandela, has turned his imprisonment into a tool to create political change and national liberty.

He accomplished this by intelligence, guile, patience, tolerance for his enemies — and a display of such majestic dignity he commanded the sympathy of the world, even the grudging sympathy of the white South Africans from whom he won power.

To a harsh, cold world he brought a strange and refreshing sweetness. News from Africa was almost always bad, just as it is today, but news involving him always carried a grace note of hope. His gift to everyone was an unquenchable optimism, maintained in the face of appalling conditions. That, and quiet good humour.
He was sentenced to five years in prison. While there he learned police had found a cache of ANC plans at a hideout in Rivonia, a suburb of Johannesburg. Mr. Mandela was implicated, and was now to go on trial for his life, charged with sabotage and planning to overthrow the government by violence.

This time, his statement to the court drew even more attention — “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. 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 which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

The London Observer published his speech under the headline “Why I am prepared to die.” The University of London Union made Mandela its president. In St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, nightly vigils for Mr. Mandela began. The World Peace Council awarded medals to all the accused. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment, rather than death. His hardest work had begun.
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Posted by Addisu Wond.


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