UNITED NATIONS, July 18: In an eloquent tribute to South African leader Nelson Mandela, former US president Bill Clinton told the UN General Assembly on Thursday that although Mandela “feared and hated his apartheid jailers when he left prison but overcoming that `demon’ is a sign of his greatness”.
Mr Clinton said Mandela ended his 27 years in an apartheid jail “a greater man than he went in”.
“Every day was a struggle; I could see it in his eyes even after he became president. Some old demon would rise up or somebody [would] say something stupid, but he fought it every day,” said Mr Clinton.
Mr Clinton, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Andrew Mlangeni, who was a prisoner alongside Mandela, honoured him in a special ceremony at the UN headquarters as he spent his 95th birthday in hospital.
The UN chief said in his tribute that the world was united in praying for Mandela.
“We are united in concern. We are also joined in admiration for a towering figure in the worldwide fight for equality and justice,” the UN secretary general said.
To commemorate the day, the UN is joining a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to “Take Action, Inspire Change” to volunteer 67 minutes to helping others by volunteering in a hospital, tutoring a child, providing food for the homeless, or any other community service.
The 67-minute campaign is based on people devoting one minute of their time for every year that Mandela devoted to public service, as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically-elected president of post-apartheid South Africa.