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Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace prize laureate who helped end apartheid in South Africa, has died aged 90.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a contemporary of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, was one of the driving forces behind the movement to end the policy of racial segregation and discrimination enforced by the white minority government against the black majority in South Africa from 1948 until 1991.

He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1984 for his role in the struggle to abolish the apartheid system.

Ordained as a priest in 1960, Tutu went on to serve as bishop of Lesotho from 1976-78, assistant bishop of Johannesburg and rector of a parish in Soweto. He became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and was appointed the first black Archbishop of Cape Town the following year. He used his high-profile role to speak out against oppression of black people in his home country, always saying his motives were religious and not political.

After Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994, Tutu was appointed by him to a Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to investigate crimes committed by both whites and blacks during the apartheid era.

He was also credited with coining the term Rainbow Nation to describe the ethnic mix of post-apartheid South Africa, but in his latter years he expressed regret that the nation had not coalesced in the way in which he had dreamt.

Meanwhile, leaders across the world have been sending their condolence messages in the memory of the spiritual and political icon.

The South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the death of Bishop Desmond Tutu marked another chapter of bereavement in the nation’s “farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans” adding that the late priest “had helped bequeath a liberated South Africa.”

President Ramaphosa said the late cleric was “an iconic spiritual leader, anti-apartheid activist and global human rights campaigner”.

He described him as “a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead.”

He said, “A man of extraordinary intellect, integrity and invincibility against the forces of apartheid, he was also tender and vulnerable in his compassion for those who had suffered oppression, injustice and violence under apartheid, and oppressed and downtrodden people around the world.”

The Nelson Mandela Foundation was among those paying tributes, saying Tutu’s “contributions to struggles against injustice, locally and globally, are matched only by the depth of his thinking about the making of liberatory futures for human societies.

“He was an extraordinary human being. A thinker. A leader. A shepherd.”

The former US President Barack Obama in his tribute called the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu “a mentor, a friend and a moral compass.

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others. A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere. He never lost his impish sense of humour and willingness to find humanity in his adversaries, and Michelle and I will miss him dearly,” Observed Obama.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said of Tutu, “He was a critical figure in the fight against apartheid and in the struggle to create a new South Africa – and will be remembered for his spiritual leadership and irrepressible good humor.”

President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden of the United States of America said they were “heartbroken” to hear that Tutu had died.

They said, “His courage and moral clarity helped inspire our commitment to change American policy toward the repressive Apartheid regime in South Africa,” the Bidens said in a statement released by the White House.

“Desmond Tutu followed his spiritual calling to create a better, freer, and more equal world. His legacy transcends borders and will echo throughout the ages.”

So also The Elders, a global human rights groups that former South African President Nelson Mandela formed in 2007, released a statement mourning their emeritus member, who liked to be called “Arch.”

According to them, “The Elders have lost a dear friend, whose infectious laugh and mischievous sense of humor delighted and charmed them all,”the group said. “The world has lost an inspiration – but one whose achievements will never be forgotten, and whose commitment to peace, love and the fundamental equality of all human beings will endure to inspire future generations.”

The Anglican Church of South Africa said that as people mourn the loss of Tutu, they should also celebrate his life.

The current archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, said in a video statement, “He wanted every human being on earth to experience the freedom, the peace, and the joy that all of us would enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.”

Makgoba said that funeral arrangements for Tutu would be made in partnership with the South African government and would abide by COVID-19 safe protocols.

Tutu was one of the country’s best known figures at home and abroad.

In the same vein, President Muhammadu Buhari and former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, have mourned the death of Bishop Tutu.

President Buhari in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina said he believed the death of the iconic teacher, human rights activist, leader of thought, scholar and philanthropist, further creates a void in a world in dire need of wisdom, integrity, courage and sound reasoning, which were qualities that the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, 1984, typified and exemplified in words and actions.

As a South African, global citizen and renowned world leader, the President affirmed that the historic role Archbishop Tutu played in the fight against apartheid, enduring physical assaults, jail terms and prolonged exile, took him beyond the pulpit to global, political relevance, and his position, under President Nelson Mandela, in heading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided healing and direction for his country and the world.

On his part, Chief Obasanjo  recalled the role played by late Desmond Tutu in getting the country’s debt canceled, declaring that his death was a personal loss to him.

The former President, in a condolence letter to the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, said “Over the years, Reverend Tutu had shown focused, credible, bold, sensitive and purposeful leadership not just to members of the Anglican Church but to all Christians.”

The letter by his Special Assistant on Media,  Kehinde Akinyemi, added that Tutu had been part of building and strengthening the Anglican Church, and its eminent place in the Church system in South Africa today is not unrelated to his selfless service and leadership.”

On the country’s debt cancellation role, Chief Obasanjo said that he acknowledged the late Arcbishop’s “uncommon solidarity and the deep passion with which he had argued Nigeria’s case for full debt cancellation by the contents of his letter to Mr. Gordon Brown, the then United Kingdom’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, during my administration as the President of Nigeria.

“This his heroic advocacy effort with respect to Nigeria’s indebtedness to the Paris Club on behalf of Nigeria was very much in his character,” Chief Obasanjo noted.

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Julius Adegunna, a writer, and publisher of good news and reports. He is also a trainer in Writing and Publishing, a Media Consultant and an Entrepreneur. A 1987 Graduate of International Relations of the University of Ife, (Now Obafemi Awolowo University) with Post Graduate Diploma in International Relations, and Master in Communication Studies of Lagos State University. He lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

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