Statement of the President of the French Republic in Homage to Nelson Mandela
Before our Summit had even begun, some very sad news broke: that Nelson Mandela had died. That is why, at this very moment, as we meet, I wanted to say the words that you could say in my place, at this very moment.
The world is in mourning.
Nelson Mandela left us yesterday. He had already made History in his lifetime. In death, he takes his place in the world’s conscience.
Nelson Mandela changed much more than South Africa. He sped up the course of the world, armed only with his principles and a steadfast will. He managed to win every battle he led and joined.
Nelson Mandela withstood 27 years of prison. He won over the odious apartheid system. He reached out to his oppressors. He established democracy in a country that had never known it. He made South Africa a power, yes, but a power in the service of peace.
Nelson Mandela is an example. An example of resistance in the face of oppression. An example of freedom in the face of injustice. An example of dignity in the face of humiliation. An example of clear-sightedness in the face of intolerance. An example of forgiveness in the face of hatred. An example of lucidity in the face of the excesses of power. An example of intelligence in the face of tests. That is what Nelson Mandela stood for, and still stands for today.
And if he became a hero, a global hero, it is because he was deeply human and deeply good. In his Robben Island prison, and as the leader of South Africa, he remained the same man, with the same simplicity, the same modesty and the same smile. His humanity was summed up in a beautiful sentence: “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same”.
Nelson Mandela is no longer with us, but his message remains and continues to inspire new generations. Nelson Mandela will always be the model for men and women who are fighting for their rights. He will always be the reference point for those who continue their unending fight against racism, discrimination and all forms of intolerance and injustice. Nelson Mandela will always be the model for those fighting for freedom and empowerment.
My dear friends,
Destiny decreed that all of Africa should be gathered here in Paris, for a Summit on Peace and Security, the day after the passing of Nelson Mandela. This is both a symbol and a demand for responsibility.
France, the country of human rights, pays tribute to Nelson Mandela. France shares the sorrow of the people of South Africa who have just lost their founding father. France expresses its solidarity with all Africans, represented here by Heads of State, Heads of Government and Ministers. Now more than ever, France remembers Mandela’s message of hope for people the world over.
France is fully committed to this message and on behalf of Mandela, will do its utmost to live up to it.
Today, it is Nelson Mandela who is presiding over our work at this Summit.
Thank you very much.