World News

World Leaders Heading to South Africa for Mandela Tribute

Leaders are traveling to South Africa from around the world for Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who died last week at the age of 95.

U.S. President Barack Obama left Washington Monday morning, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, and former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura. Former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are traveling separately to Johannesburg, where the main service will be held in the Soccer City stadium, the site of the 2010 World Cup.

South Africa said that more than 80 heads of state, royalty and high government officials from throughout the world are expected at the tribute to Mr. Mandela. He became South Africa's first black president in the 1990s after being imprisoned for 27 years for leading the struggle against his country's white apartheid rule.

Foreign Minister Maite Knoana-Mashabane says there has been "unprecedented interest" from world leaders who want to attend the event, which will be held under heavy security. Mr. Obama is among those expected to speak before an anticipated crowd of 80,000 people.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Cuban President Raul Castro and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are among the world leaders who have told the South African government they plan to attend the service for Mr. Mandela.



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 Mr. 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.

Hundreds of bouquets of flowers have been laid on the street outside Mr. 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.

Mr. 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 Mr. Mandela's burial on December 15 in his boyhood home of Qunu.

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