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Abbas inaugurates statue of Nelson Mandela in Ramallah

April 26, 2016 9:18 P.M. (Updated: April 27, 2016 4:44 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inaugurated a statue of late South African leader Nelson Mandela on Tuesday afternoon in the central occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

The square where the statue was installed in the al-Tira neighborhood will officially be renamed Mandela Square.

Palestinian state news agency WAFA reported that Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau and the head of the South African mission to Palestine, Ashraf Suleiman, attended the ceremony. Several Palestinian officials were also present.

Hailing the “distinguished relationship” between Ramallah and Johannesburg, Ramallah Mayor Mousa Hadid claimed during the ceremony that the statue was “the first statue South Africa built outside its borders.”

The statue was also a reflection of the South African government’s appreciation of the Palestinian people and their lengthy struggle for freedom and independence, Hadid added.

Hadid said that Israeli authorities had withheld the statue, releasing it only days before the inauguration.

“The Israeli occupation detained the statue to make sure it doesn’t possess any of Mandela’s pride and love of freedom,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tau highlighted the fact that the inauguration coincided with the 22nd anniversary of the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

“(The statue) represents the spiritual father of freedom in our country, Nelson Mandela,” Tau said, adding that he hoped that the Palestinian people would obtain their freedom and independence, just as the people of South Africa were freed from apartheid and racism.

A globally revered figure, Mandela holds a special place in Palestinian society for his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians,” Mandela, who died in 2013 at 95 years old, famously said in 1997.

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