World leaders, from US President Barack Obama to Cuba\’s Raul Castro, will pay homage to Nelson Mandela at a mass memorial in South Africa that will recall his gift for bringing enemies together across political and racial divides.
Leaders from around the world will pay tribute at Tuesday\’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader who died last week at the age of 95.
South Africa says there has been "unprecedented interest" from world leaders who want to attend the event in Johannesburg, with more than 80 heads of state, royalty and high government officials expected.
Mandela became country\’s first black president in the 1990s after being imprisoned for 27 years for leading the struggle against his country\’s white apartheid rule.
Leaders who are scheduled to deliver eulogies at the service include U.S. President Barack Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
The event will be held in Johannesburg\’s main stadium used for the 2010 World Cup football (soccer) finals. Heavy security is planned for the expected crowd of 80,000. The venue is also the place where Mr. 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 includes first lady Michelle Obama and former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
George H.W. Bush is the only living former U.S. president who will not attend the event. His spokesman said the 89-year-old Bush is no longer able to travel long distances.
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Irish singer-activist Bono, as well as British billionaire Richard Branson are also expected to attend.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair will both be there. Blair has called Mugabe a dictator who should have been removed from power.
Mugabe has called Blair an imperialist and once told him to "go to hell".
Hundreds of bouquets of flowers have been laid on the street outside Mandela\’s Johannesburg home. His grandson, Mandla Mandela, sang and danced along with other mourners Monday as he approached the gated home to pay his respects.
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.