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Nobel Peace Prize Winner Desmond Tutu Retires From Public Life

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and one of the world’s most prominent human rights figures, has officially ended his public career.

The man popularly described as "South Africa's conscience" said in July -- when he announced his imminent retirement -- that instead of growing old with his family, reading, and thinking, he had been spending too much time at airports and in hotels. "The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses," he noted at the time.

Tutu is a beloved and respected figure in South Africa, as well as around the world, for his role in the struggle against apartheid and his global human rights and peace efforts.

Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his non-violent campaign against South Africa's former racial separation doctrine, which he described as “evil." Never one to shy away from speaking truth to power, at a U.S. Congressional hearing that same year, Tutu criticized the then-Reagan administration's policies toward South Africa, which he considered far too soft.

"Apartheid is as evil, as immoral, as un-Christian in my view as Nazism. And in my view, the Reagan administration's support and collaboration with it is equally immoral, evil, and totally un-Christian, without remainder," he said.

In 1986, Tutu became the first black archbishop of Cape Town.

After the fall of apartheid in 1994, he led South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which laid bare the abuses and human rights violations of that dark era.

Over the years, Tutu has been involved in peace and reconciliation efforts in a number of conflict regions.

He has also spoken out against injustice in the world and on behalf of those oppressed, including Iranian citizens who came under attack last year after they protested against the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

"Join me in a worldwide rally on July 25 to support and echo the voices of millions of Iranians who are demanding their civil and human civil rights," he said then. "The people of Iran need you."

In recent years, Tutu has harshly criticized Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and he's been also critical of Israel's policies toward the Palestinians, including its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Former U.S President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair have also come under attack by Tutu over the war in Iraq, which he described as "immoral."

Tutu will reportedly still work with the Elders, an informal group of former world leaders and Nobel Peace laureates that aims to tackle some of the world's most pressing problems.

Reports say his retirement has been met with doubt in South Africa. Yet his spokesman, Dan Vaughan, has told AFP that he's serious about slowing down and he will now be refusing most interview requests.

Tutu is due to celebrate his birthday and retirement with friends and family in Cape Town on October 7.

compiled from agency reports