Mr Mandela said it was an honour to be at the unveiling
Enlarge ImageA statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela has been unveiled in London.
Mr Mandela, 89, his wife Graca Machel, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown were among those at the unveiling in Parliament Square.
Mr Brown hailed Mr Mandela as the "greatest and most courageous leader of our generation".
The late South African anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods had the idea for the 9ft-high (2.7m) bronze statue.
Talking to crowds who gathered for the unveiling, Mr Mandela said: "Though this statue is of one man, it should in actual fact symbolise all of those who have resisted oppression, especially in my country."
Lord Richard Attenborough, trustee of the Mandela Statue Fund, introduced Mr Mandela at the unveiling and spoke of Mr Woods's "bravery".
Large crowds gathered in Parliament Square for the statue unveiling
"He fled his country with his wife and five children and came here as a refugee, thrown out by the apartheid system," said Lord Attenborough.
"He would have given anything to have been here today because it was his concept."
Wendy Woods, wife of the late Donald Woods, said: "This statue will remind the world of the human qualities that Mr Mandela has.
"These are qualities which have helped South Africa put paid to its past and helped us on our first step towards a future where all people can flourish and lead happier lives."
Dogged by arguments
The statue had been dogged by arguments over where it should go as well as its artistic merit.
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, who was also at the ceremony, had wanted it to stand on the north side of Trafalgar Square.
However, in 2005 Westminster Council refused permission saying it would clutter the space needed for large events.
It was finally agreed the statue should face the Houses of Parliament, and stand alongside images of other great leaders such as Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and Abraham Lincoln.
"Long after we are forgotten, you will be remembered for having taught the world one amazing truth," said Mr Livingstone.
"That you can achieve justice without vengeance. I honour you and London honours you."