US President Barack Obama said Mr Mandela was a "giant of history", describing him as the last great liberator of the 20th Century.
World leaders, from US President Barack Obama to Cuba\’s Raul Castro, are paying homage to Nelson Mandela at a mass memorial in South Africa that recalls his gift for bringing enemies together across political and racial divides.
Obama shook the hand of Castro at the memorial, an unprecedented gesture between the leaders of two nations which have been at loggerheads for more than half a century.
Castro smiled as Obama shook his hand on the way to the podium to make a speech at the commemoration for former South African President Mandela, one of the world\’s greatest peacemakers who died on Thursday.
Castro was also among the designated orators at a Johannesburg football stadium where 23 years earlier Mandela – freshly freed from apartheid jail – was hailed by cheering supporters as the hope for a new South Africa.
In his address, Obama said Nelson Mandela earned his place in history through struggle, shrewdness, persistence and faith, comparing him to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.
Obama urged the world to act on Mandela\’s legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and racism. He said progress in the US and South Africa mustn\’t cloud the fact there\’s still work to be done.
He said "South Africa shows us that we can change".
Obama called Mandela the last great liberator of the 20th century, and said he thought about how to apply Mandela\’s lessons to himself as a man and as president.
The former South African president died last Thursday, aged 95.
More than 60,000 people gathered in Johannesburg Tuesday for a memorial service to honor late South African President Nelson Mandela.
A steady rain did not stop mourners from singing and dancing in tribute to Mandela, as speakers praised his role in ending apartheid and healing South Africa\’s racial divisions.
U.N. Secretary-General said Mandela\’s passing is an enormous loss.
"South Africa has lost a hero. You have lost a father. The world has lost a beloved friend and mentor. Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time, he was one of our greatest teachers."
Mandela became South Africa\’s first black president in 1994, after being imprisoned for 27 years for his role in the struggle against white minority rule.
The service was held in Johannesburg\’s main stadium used for the 2010 World Cup football (soccer) finals.
The venue is also the place where Mandela made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the first-ever World Cup in Africa.
Along with President Obama, the U.S. delegation included first lady Michelle Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Mandela\’s remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria — the official seat of the South African government — on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The memorials and events will culminate in Mandela\’s burial on December 15 in his boyhood home village of Qunu.
Source: VOA /Aljazeera and Agencies