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Nelson Mandela Dies at Age 95

Nelson Mandela
Gareth Davies/Getty Images

Longtime civil-rights leader and former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela died Thursday due to complications from a lung infection. He was 95 years old.

Current South African President Jacob Zuma issued a statement saying, “The founding president of our democratic nation has departed. He is now resting, he is now at peace.”

Mandela rose to prominence for fighting against the practice of apartheid, first as a member of the African National Congress in the 1950s. In 1962 he began a prolonged stay in jail. During that time, international eyes began to focus on South African apartheid, and particularly Mandela’s role in resisting it.

Upon his release in 1990 after 27 years of imprisonment, he worked with then-South African President F.W. de Klerk to end apartheid and begin a national reconciliation. In 1993, Mandela and de Klerk received the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

In May of 1994, Mandela became the first black South African to be elected president, and he served through March of 1999. He spent much of his time in office (and the years prior to his election) attempting to dismantle the lasting effects of apartheid, which had deeply divided his country for so long. De Klerk worked closely with him on this, even serving as Mandela’s deputy president.

After retiring from politics, Mandela focused on international affairs. He worked to battle the spread of HIV/AIDS, after being criticized for not doing enough while in office. He remained a highly visible global figure for years before retreating from the public eye in 2004. He successfully lobbied for South Africa to host the 2010 World Cup, one of the last times he made a public appearance in front of international cameras.

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