Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel Mandela, did not mince words when delivering a speech at the U.N. peace summit commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mandela's birth.

She told world leaders, including Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, that history will judge them if they fail to take drastic action against “senseless violence” plaguing too much of the world.

"History will judge you should you stagnate too long in inaction. Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch."

With peace a scarce commodity, Machel's challenge was echoed by U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres and other leaders who acknowledged the world is far from achieving Mandela's ideals which also include human rights and global cooperation.

"Today, with human rights under growing pressure around the world, we would be well served by reflecting on the example of this outstanding man," Guterres said.

"We need to face the forces that threaten us with the wisdom, courage and fortitude that Nelson Mandela embodied."

The tributes to Mandela began with a rare U.N. honor — the unveiling of a $1.8 million statue of the South African anti-apartheid campaigner who became the world's most famous political prisoner.

The statue is a gift to the United Nations from South Africa.

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Mandela's arms were outstretched in the statue, as if to embrace people everywhere. But after the cover was pulled off, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, with help from Guterres, placed a small South African flag in his lapel.

The day-long summit, with nearly 160 scheduled speakers, set the stage for Tuesday's opening of the General Assembly's annual meeting of world leaders, where conflicts from Syria to South Sudan, rising unilateralism, and tackling a warming planet and growing inequality are among issues expected to be in the spotlight.


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