The audience at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg / Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation

World celebrates Nelson Mandela’s centennial birthday

Wednesday 18 July marks the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Events took place across the globe to mark the milestone, honouring an international icon for democracy, freedom and peace.

It has been a century since South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon and the first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela, was born.

South Africa on Wednesday marked the Nelson Mandela’s birthday with a “town hall” forum hosted by former US President Barack Obama and a walk led by the iconic leader’s Machel Graca, among a series of tributes.

Obama, speaking to 15,000 people at a stadium in Johannesburg, gave an emotional address recalling the “wave of hope that washed through hearts all around the world” when Mandela was released from jail in 1990.

President Barack Obama speaks, as Dr Patrice Motsepe, whose Motsepe Foundation partnered with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to host the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, looks on in Johannesburg / Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation


“Through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and, perhaps most of all, through his moral example, Mandela… came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people,” Obama said.

“He shows those of us who believe in freedom and democracy we are going to have to fight harder.”

From musical tributes and gala dinners to rousing exhibitions‚ the world joined South Africans to celebrate late former statesman.

Kicking off the international “party”‚ London’s Southbank Centre‚ together with the Apartheid Museum and Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives‚ launched an exhibition exploring the Mandela’s life.

“This exhibition explores the life and times of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and marks the centenary of his birth.

“It provides insight into Mandela’s journey from being a young freedom fighter to becoming the inspiration for an international movement against South Africa’s violent and oppressive apartheid system‚ and an emblem of an ongoing struggle to build a more just and equitable world‚” said the centre.

Members of The Elders with Nelson Mandela Foundation CE Sello Hatang (second from left) and Chairman Njabulo Ndebele (far right). L-R: Former Irish President Mary Robinson; Hatang; former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan; Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Bramini; entrepreneur and philanthropist Richard Branson and Ndebele / Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation


The United Nations is also running an exhibition at its New York Headquarters entitled “Building on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela – NYC”. The exhibition will continue until September 2.

“The exhibit honours Mandela’s contributions to the main areas of work of the UN — peace and security‚ human rights‚ and sustainable development.

“It also illustrates initiatives taken by the UN General Assembly in recognition of the South African leader’s legacy‚” the UN said.

From Berlin to Baltimore, Lagos to Lusaka, events such as symposia, exhibitions and music concerts, also took place to mark Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Mandela was imprisoned under apartheid rule in 1962 and only freed in 1990, when he went on to lead the African National Congress party to victory in the first multi-racial elections in 1994. He served one term as president before stepping down in 1999. His birthday on 18 July is marked annually around the world as “Mandela Day”

Vivian Asamoa, Adira Kallo

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