Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
The South African courts convicted him on charges of sabotage, as well as other alleged crimes committed while he led the movement against apartheid. In accordance with his sentence, Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela supported reconciliation and negotiation, and helped lead the transition towards multi-racial democracy in South Africa.
Many, including former opponents, have frequently praised Mandela. In South Africa he is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. The title has come to be synonymous with Nelson Mandela.
Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, most notably the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly announced that Mandela's birthday, 18 July, is to be known as 'Mandela Day' to mark his contribution to world freedom.