World unites for Mandela memorial

Close to 100 world leaders join South Africans to bid farewell to global icon Nelson Mandela

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Tens of thousands of grieving South Africans are sitting side-by-side with presidents, priests, queens and sheikhs on Tuesday at a memorial service for unifying global icon Nelson Mandela.

Close to 100 world leaders and 80,000 South Africans gathered at a stadium near Johannesburg for a massive memorial service honoring Mandela.

News of the prisoner-turned-president’s death at his home in Johannesburg on Thursday resonated around the world, triggering a wave of loving admiration from political and religious leaders, some of whom agree on little else.

mandela memorial
mandela memorial

World leaders are speaking at the memorial, with U.S. President Barack Obama receiving an ovation as he arrived an hour late.

Obama hailed Nelson Mandela as a “giant of justice” on Tuesday but said too many leaders in the world claimed solidarity with his struggle for freedom “but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.”

The Indian and Brazilian presidents will also speak, reflecting the extraordinary global reach, popularity and influence of one of the 20th century’s towering political figures.

Four of Mandela’s grandchildren will speak for his family, while neither his widow, Graca Machel, nor his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela are listed on the program.

The event is part of an extended state funeral that will culminate in Mandela’s burial on Sunday in the rural village of Qunu where he spent his early childhood.

Some 120,000 people will be able to watch the event on giant screens set up in three overflow stadiums in Johannesburg.

Although Mandela had been critically ill for months, the announcement of his death was a body blow for this recently reborn nation.

(With AFP and AP)

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