Uhuru,Obama among 53 world leaders to attend Mandela memorial events

Presidents Uhuru Kenyatta and Barack Obama are among 53 heads of state and government who will be travelling to South Africa for Tuesday’s memorial service in honour of former president and freedom hero Nelson Mandela.

On Sunday, the South African government was grappling with a major security nightmare as it prepared to host one of the largest gathering of world leaders at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City) in Johannesburg. Workers were putting final touches, including a podium, at the 94,000-seater stadium.

Besides the heads of state and government, members of royal families and other eminent persons are expected to attend.

Kenya’s ambassador to South Africa, Mr Patrick Wamoto, confirmed that President Kenyatta was expected to arrive in South Africa this evening.

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga said it would be difficult for him not to attend the event.

“The decision not to attend would be a difficult one given the very close ties with the family. But he has not made a decision as yet. A lot of things are going to be involved,” his spokesman, Mr Dennis Onyango said.

President Obama

South African minister Collins Chabane said that President Obama and his wife Michelle will join scores of world leaders and throngs of people from all walks of life who are headed to South Africa to pay their last respects to Mr Mandela who died on Thursday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also travel to Johannesburg for the service.

ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We are going to have an unprecedented number of global leaders from all over the world coming to South Africa to honour Nelson Mandela. Kings, queens, princes, ordinary persons in the villages, ordinary workers are also going to descend on South Africa when we have the biggest memorial that this country has ever seen.”

By Sunday, at least 30 Heads of State had confirmed attendance. Of these, 13 were African. At least seven former Heads of State from various parts of the world are also expected to join the global queue to pay their last respects. These include Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton of the US.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will be accompanied by four of her predecessors: Sarney, Melo, Cardoso and Lula da Silva.

Government protocol and Foreign Affairs departments in South Africa and around the world were coordinating details on how the leaders would travel to SA.

Majority of Heads of State, diplomatic sources told the Nation, have chosen to attend tomorrow’s memorial rather than the Sunday state funeral.

It was unclear whether Mr Obama would remain in South Africa until Sunday.

The Dalai Lama, who has twice since 2009 been denied a visa for South Africa, was expected to skip his fellow Nobel laureate’s funeral, his spokesman said Sunday.

“He has no plans to go,” spokesman Tenzin Takhla told AFP in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala where the Tibetan spiritual leader is headquartered.

Sunday as millions of South Africans gathered in places of worship, sports stadia, the streets and villages to pay tribute to Mandela, outside his home in Houghton stood a testament of humanity of what Mr Mandela stood for; men, women and women of all colour and races arrived in droves to deliver flowers, meditate on his life and legacy, light candles, or chant spontaneous praise songs.

On Saturday, December 14, Mandela’s body will be transported to the Eastern Cape from Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the ruling party will bid Madiba farewell.

The South African National Defence Force will take charge of this leg of the State funeral.

On Sunday, the funeral service at Qunu will conclude the 10 day State funeral period.-nation.co.ke

People light candles outside the house of former South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg following his death. On Sunday, the South African government was grappling with a major security nightmare as it prepared to host one of the largest gathering of world leaders

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