Nelson Mandela, the towering figure of Africa’s struggle for freedom and a hero to millions around the world, has died at the age of 95.

South Africa’s first democratically elected President was in the midst of his family at home in Johannesburg, after years of declining health that had caused him to withdraw from public life.

The news was announced by President Jacob Zuma. In a sombre televised address he said Mr. Mandela “departed” at 8.50 p.m. local time and was at peace. “This is the moment of our deepest sorrow,” Mr. Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son... What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human. We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

United States President Barack Obama led tributes from world leaders, referring to Mr. Mandela by his clan name — Madiba. “Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.”

Mr. Mandela’s death sent South Africa deep into mourning and self-reflection, nearly 20 years after he led the country from racial apartheid to inclusive democracy.

But his passing will also be keenly felt by people around the world who revered Mr. Mandela as one of history’s last great statesmen and a moral paragon comparable with Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

It was a transcendent act of forgiveness after spending 27 years in prison, 18 of them on Robben Island, that will assure his place in history. With South Africa facing possible civil war, Mr. Mandela sought reconciliation with the white minority to build a new democracy.

He led the African National Congress to victory in the country’s first multiracial election in 1994. Mr. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

More In: World | International | News