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Statement by Laurent Fabius – 22nd anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s visit to Paris

On June 7, 1990, France welcomed Nelson Mandela.

I remember the extent to which the French people were moved when they welcomed to Paris the man who had been released three month earlier after more than 27 years in chains.

The symbol of a nation’s pride, the symbol of resistance to racism and the contemptible apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela was able to experience France’s empathy with and commitment to his ceaseless fight for freedom, human rights and dignity.

One year before the abolition of apartheid, driven by the strength of his convictions and his commitment, this relentless fighter for freedom and equal rights tirelessly continued to pursue the same goals: the reconciliation of his people, South Africa’s reintegration into the African family and the community of nations, the establishment of a democracy and a destiny that had been rediscovered.

22 years after this historic visit, which was reciprocated by President Mitterrand’s visit to South Africa in 1994, our attachment to and respect for Nelson Mandela have not wavered. They’ve been strengthened by a new responsibility; the responsibility to remain faithful to the values to which this extraordinary personality devoted his life. Bolstered by this shared awareness, the French and the South Africans must work together in order to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

This is the goal that drives us on this anniversary, which is all the more meaningful to me given that the fight against apartheid was one of my first enduring commitments.


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All rights reserved - French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development - 2014