Germany's President Horst Koehler paid tribute to Nelson Mandela ahead of his 90th birthday, saying that the former South African president brought hope to the world by fighting against apartheid.
Nelson Mandela won a Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid
Mandela, an icon of the anti-apartheid movement and South Africa's first black president, celebrates his 90th birthday on Friday, July 18.
Koehler expressed his admiration for Mandela in an article for the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper's Friday edition. Mandela spent 27 years in prison for trying to overthrow the white-only apartheid regime in South Africa. After being elected president in 1994, he promoted peace and multi-racial democracy.
Reconcilliation wasn't just a word for the man who established South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Comission, Koehler wrote. Mandela's commission remains the gold standard "for the political embodiment of reconciliation in the world," Koehler said.
Mandela remains an example
Mandela will celebrate with his family
Koehler said that Mandela, who only served one term as president, sets an example for Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe has refused to release his grip on power.
Mandela completely retired from public life four years ago. He continues to be involved with his charity foundation, which raises money for AIDS patients and underprivileged children.
While Mandela plans a low-key family celebration on Friday, tributes have been pouring in from around South Africa and the world. On Saturday, 500 friends are expected to throw him a glittering party. Music festivals, a boxing tournament and other events are being held around the country to mark the occasion, according to the AFP news agency.
Mandela issued a recorded message to his birthday wishers, which was played on public radio Friday.
"We are honored that you wish to celebrate the birthday of a retired old man who no longer has power or influence," Mandela said. "We wish you well wherever you are."