By Alex Olivares
Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela died Thursday at 95-years old after multiple bouts with a chronic lung infection.
Medical problems began for Mandela in 2011 when he was hospitalized for a lung infection that captured worldwide attention. He returned to hospitals on throughout the next two years for related complications.
Mandela inspired South Africans during the fight to end apartheid, or racial segregation, in South Africa. Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and Communist ideologies, Mandela organized peaceful protests against the white minority government and became the head of the African National Congress, a political party started with the focus of increasing the rights of blacks in South Africa.
When the ANC considered more aggressive tactics to fight apartheid, the South African government arrested Mandela for treason. His detainment caused a global uproar from human rights activists and shed greater light on the plight of South African blacks.
After serving 18 years in prison, the pressure the government faced by the international community influenced Mandela’s release in 1990.
For the next few years, Mandela would lead conferences between the ANC, the government and other political organizations to end legislation that enforced segregation in the country.
With universal suffrage becoming a reality in the mid-90s, Mandela ran for presidential office and won in 1994. His party, the ANC, also won control of most provinces in South Africa. The administration he lead increased welfare spending to grant access to free healthcare for all children younger than six-years old, build hospitals and connect residents to telephone lines.
Serving only one term and establishing a new constitution for democracy, Mandela stepped down from office and withdrew from politics, but his humanitarian efforts continued. He founded the Nelson Mandela Foundation which aims to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, help in rural development of Africa, and work to end poverty.
Mandela is survived by his wife and three children.