United Nations Unveils Statue of Nelson Mandela to Mark His 100th Birthday

Mandela died in December 2013 at 95.

As the leaders of the world gather in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly, the institution unveiled a statue to late South African President Nelson Mandela. 

The statue was donated by the South African government to commemorate the civil rights icon’s 100th birthday. 

“From this day, everybody in the United Nations will be constantly inspired by Madiba's legacy looking at this wonderful statue,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as the statue was revealed. 

Current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was part of the African National Congress — Mandela’s political party — while the late leader was in prison for 27 years, was on hand for the ceremony. 

“We have this morning through the Political Declaration adopted by the Summit declared the next 10 years to be the Nelson Mandela International Decade for Peace. We should seize the opportunity of this decade to rally behind a common agenda for peace,” he said. 

Mandela became a symbol of the anti-Apartheid movement. In 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the state. 

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people," he famously told the judge during his sentencing trial. "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

As Mandela was behind bars, mostly in South Africa’s remote Robben Island, his influence and story grew in popularity around the world as the people of South Africa and other governments put pressure to end the Apartheid system. 

In February 1990, Mandela was released from prison as the system began to crumble. 

In 1993, he and South African President Frederik Willem de Klerk were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Four years after his release, he was picked by the people as his country’s first black and democratically elected president. 

While Mandela was a one-term president, he remained active in social and political causes until his death in December 2013. He was 95. 

Mandela would spend his life after office campaigning against injustices and poverty and raised awareness of the AIDS epidemic in hopes of a cure. He is still regarded as a symbol and beacon for justice and racial equality. 

“We are pleased that he will forever not only live in the hearts of South Africans at home, but also live in the hearts of people around the world and particularly those who continue to come to the United Nations,” Ramaphosa said Monday at the UN.