11.02.2010 - AFR

UNESCO pays tribute to Nelson Mandela on the twentieth anniversary of his liberation from prison

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova paid tribute Thursday to Nelson Mandela, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, on the occasion of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of his liberation, which took place on 11 February 1990.

"At a time when Africa and the whole world celebrate the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s liberation after 26 years in prison, I would like to pay special tribute to this great champion of peace and reconciliation among peoples," she declared.

"UNESCO is honoured to have Nelson Mandela among the personalities who have generously agreed to use their talent and international notoriety to raise awareness about the Organization’s actions," added the Director-General.

Nelson Mandela was designated Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO on 12 July 2005 during a ceremony at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg (South Africa). This title was conferred upon him “in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the fight against apartheid and racial discrimination, in his country and worldwide; for his dedication to reconciliation between different communities; his unfailing commitment to democracy, equality and learning; his support for all the oppressed of the Earth; and his exemplary contribution to international peace and understanding.” 

Born on 18 July 1918 in Tembu, a small village in the Transkei of which his father was chief, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school. His involvement in politics began in his student days at Fort Hare University. Joining the African National Congress party in 1942, he became a notable opponent of the white minority government, was arrested for anti-apartheid activism in 1962 and remained in prison until 1990. He earned worldwide recognition as a freedom fighter and “Free Nelson Mandela” became the rallying cry for anti-apartheid campaigners. In 1991, he and State President F.W. de Klerk, who ordered his release, were awarded the UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize. Two years later, they shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

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