World leaders react to Nelson Mandela’s death

Pakistani schoolchildren pay tribute to Mandela.

People around the world have been reacting to the news that South Africa's first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.

US President Barack Obama spoke shortly after South African President Jacob Zuma announced the news on Friday. "We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," he said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Mandela "was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said the Chinese people would always remember Mandela's "outstanding contributions to the China-South Africa relationship and the course of progress of mankind.”

In Britain, Queen Elizabeth II said she was “deeply saddened.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said “a great light has gone out in the world.”

The news happened to break Wednesday night during a special London screening of the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” attended by Prince William and Kate Middleton. Producer Anant Singh stepped onstage during the final credits and announced Mandela’s death to tears and gasps from the crowd.

Two of Mandela’s daughters had been present at the screening, but departed just before the film began, Singh said, according to the Times.

Leaders elsewhere in Europe also paid tribute. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Mandela’s “political legacy of non-violence and the condemnation of all forms of racism."

French President Francois Hollande said Mandela would "continue to inspire fighters for freedom, and to give confidence to peoples in the defense of just causes and universal rights."

Mandela’s loss touched a nerve across Europe, where many fervently campaigned for his release from prison in the 1980s and early 1990s.

“Why is it that we celebrate that we are so sad, that we feel a loss as if it’s a family member?” former Irish President Mary Robinson said. “Because he was the best of us. He was the best of our values.”

"It was as if he was born to teach the age a lesson in humility, in humor and above all else in patience," said rock star and poverty activist Bono.

Amid the somber tributes were fond recollections of Mandela’s warmth and sense of humor, as he displayed in his 2000 speech to the British Labour Party conference, during which he joked that people had come only to see “what a pensioner from the colonies looks like.”

Writing in a telegram to Zuma on Friday, Pope Francis said Mandela promoted the "human dignity of all the nation's citizens."

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Nelson Mandela “was among the greatest figures of our time."

The Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas said Mandela was "a symbol of the liberation from colonialism and occupation,” adding that "the Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free.”

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