World leaders have gathered in Johannesburg to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela at a memorial service for the former president of South Africa, five days after he died at the age of 95.

Barack Obama was pictured arriving after a 17-hour flight from Washington on board Air Force One, during which he rode with his wife Michelle, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, and Hillary Clinton.

He has been given a prominent role in the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela – but may face awkward moments if he comes face to face with controversial leaders such as Raul Castro of Cuba and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

Among the other international dignitaries to attend the event are several current and former British leaders, including David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major.

 
Touching down: President Obama and First Lady Michelle looked collected and sombre Tuesday morning after coming off the 16-hour flight on Air Force One

Touching down: President Obama and First Lady Michelle looked collected and sombre after coming off the 16-hour flight on Air Force One.

Arrival: Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and John Major walking in to the FNB Stadium this morning

Arrival: Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg and John Major walking in to the FNB Stadium this morning

 
Successor: Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, is giving the keynote speech during the ceremony

Successor: Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, is giving the keynote speech during the ceremony

 
Ally: FW de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize along with Mandela for his role in ending apartheid, arrives with his wife Elita

Ally: FW de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize along with Mandela for his role in ending apartheid, arrives with his wife Elita

 

 

The memorial will feature tributes by some of the anti-Apartheid icon’s family and a speech from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The event at the 95,000-capacity FNB Stadium in Soweto will begin at 11am Tuesday with a rendition of South Africa’s national anthem – the only music in the order of service.

Stars: U2 singer Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron talking in the crowd at the ceremony

Stars: U2 singer Bono and South African actress Charlize Theron talking in the crowd at the ceremony

 

 
John Major
Tony Blair
 

Dignitaries: Sir John Major and Tony Blair were two of the former Prime Ministers of the UK to attend in honour of Mandela

 
Respected: Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter

Respected: Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan arrived with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former President Jimmy Carter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

President Obama and Raul Castro are two of the world leaders who have been asked to give speeches – in spite of the animosity between them – but the focus of the day will remain on the work of Mr Mandela. 

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, Brazilian president Dilma Roussef, Namibian president Hifikepunye Pohamba and Indian president Pranab Mukherjee will also make speeches before a keynote address by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma and a sermon by Bishop Ivan Abrahams. 

Almost 100 foreign heads of state are expected at the memorial, which is poised to be one of the largest such gatherings in generations.

Among the mourners pictured arriving at the ceremony were former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, ex-U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Desmond Tutu, the Archbishop of Cape Town who was Mandela’s ally in bringing apartheid to an end.

However, Israel’s president Benjamin Netanyahu has decided not to attend, because the cost of providing security for him would be too great.

A number of African presidents – including the reviled Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe – have already been pictured arriving in South Africa ahead of Mr Obama and Mr Bush, who traveled together alongside their wives and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on board Air Force One.

David Cameron paid tribute to the spirit of forgiveness shown by the anti-apartheid hero as he arrived for the service.

The British prime minister said Mr Mandela set an example to politicians across the world, not only in the ‘incredible stand he took’ but in the way he treated people once he was released from prison.

He highlighted the moment Mr Mandela appeared with captain of the Springboks Francois Pienaar at the Rugby World Cup final in South Africa in 1995.

Mr Cameron told BBC Breakfast: ‘I will never forget the sight of him with the captain of the Springboks out in the middle of that rugby pitch, that moment is seared in all our memories.

‘And the way that he had treated people who had done such harm to people.

‘I think it was the forgiveness that set an example that so few politicians are able to follow. I think those sort of lessons are what we need to learn and take away with us.’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband are also set to attend the memorial service.

Asked about his decision to wear a black tie, Mr Cameron said: ‘We were told that it was appropriate to wear a black tie but when you come and you hear this great noise and great atmosphere of celebration, it’s clear that people here in South Africa want to, yes, say goodbye to this great man, yes, commemorate what he did, but also celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy and I think that’s right.’

The presence of Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown with Mr Cameron reflects the deep respect in which Mr Mandela is held within British politics.

The Prime Minister and Mr Brown were among MPs who paid tribute to Mr Mandela in a special Commons session yesterday following the Nobel peace prize-winner’s death.

Mr Brown added his tribute to ‘the man that taught us no injustice can last forever’.

He said: ‘Nelson Mandela, the greatest man of his generation, yes, but across generations, one of the most courageous people you could ever hope to meet.’

Meanwhile, ordinary South Africans today paid tribute to the powerful influence Mr Mandela had on their lives.

Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, a postgraduate marketing student who arrived hours before the stadium gates opened, said: ‘I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him. He was jailed so we could have our freedom.’

Rohan Laird, the 54-year-old CEO of a health insurance company, said he grew up during white rule in a ‘privileged position’ as a white South African and that Mandela helped whites work through a burden of guilt.

‘His reconciliation allowed whites to be released themselves,’ Lair said. ‘I honestly don’t think the world will see another leader like Nelson Mandela.’

People blew on vuvuzelas, the plastic horn that was widely used during the World Cup soccer tournament in 2010, and sang songs from the era of the anti-apartheid struggle decades ago.

‘It is a moment of sadness celebrated by song and dance, which is what we South Africans do,’ said Xolisa Madywabe, CEO of a South African investment firm.

 
Springboks: South Africa's rugby captain Jean de Villiers and his predecessor Francois Pienaar were among the mourners

Springboks: South Africa’s rugby captain Jean de Villiers and his predecessor Francois Pienaar were among the mourners.

WORLD LEADERS, TYCOONS, SINGERS AND MODELS GATHER TO PAY THEIR RESPECTS TO NELSON MANDELA

Among the global leaders heading to South Africa today will be celebrities from the worlds of music, business and fashion.

Tycoon Sir Richard Branson, supermodel Naomi Campbell and musicians Bono, Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel, and actress Charlize Theron are expected at the memorial service.

Sir Richard and singer Peter Gabriel devised ‘The Elders’ forum of statesmen and activists set up by Mr Mandela.

U2 singer and activist Bono, 53, said the anti-apartheid icon had inspired him to campaign against Aids and world poverty.

Miss Campbell, 43, who Mr Mandela described as his ‘honorary granddaughter’, has helped raise money for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and his former political party the African National Congress.

Grammy award-winning artist Annie Lennox, 58, has a long association with Mr Mandela after performing at his 70th birthday concert in 1988.

Three previous British prime ministers – Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – are to join current PM David Cameron at the official memorial ceremony.

Also attending the national memorial service in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium will be Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband, said Downing Street.

It is thought to be the first time for many years that all of the UK’s surviving prime ministers have travelled to an event abroad and reflects the deep respect in which Mr Mandela is held within British politics.

Among those attending are U.S. President Barack Obama and United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

Former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter will also be there.

At the funeral, political guests will include Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout – who is representing his country in place of its prime minister Jiri Rusnok.

Mr Rusnok was forced to apologise after he was recorded saying: ‘The idea of going gives me the shivers.’

South Africa’s government released the list of speakers for the memorial, expected to last four hours at stadium at Soweto Township near Johannesburg.

Beyond Obama and Ban, the government says the following leaders will speak:

– Brazil President Dilma Rousseff;
– Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao;
– Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba;
– Indian President Pranab Mukherjee; and
– Cuban President Raul Castro.

South African President Jacob Zuma will give the keynote address. Mr Mandela’s family and friends also will speak at the ceremony, which will include a sermon.

The 95,000-capacity soccer venue was also the spot where Mandela made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup. After the memorial, his body will lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, once the seat of white power, before burial on Sunday in his rural childhood village of Qunu in Eastern Cape Province.

Police promised tight security, locking down roads for miles around the stadium. However, the first crowds entered the stadium without being searched.

John Allen, a 48-year-old pastor from the U.S. state of Arkansas, said he once met Mandela at a shopping center in South Africa with his sons.

‘He joked with my youngest and asked if he had voted for Bill Clinton,’ Allen said. ‘He just zeroed in on my eight-year-old for the three to five minutes we talked.’

There have been numerous comparisons between Mr Obama and Mr Mandela and a certain number of them are inevitable – as they were both the first black presidents of their respective countries and living symbols of struggles to overcome deep-seated racial tensions.

Adding to that, both were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But as Obama prepares to honor Mandela at a memorial service Tuesday in South Africa, people close to the U.S. president say he is wary of drawing close comparisons between his own rapid rise through America’s political ranks and Mandela’s 27 years in prison fighting against a repressive government.

NIC STADIUM WHERE MANDELA MADE LANDMARK SPEECH IN 1990

The 95,000-capacity football stadium where the memorial is being held is a fitting location to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The First National Bank Stadium, more commonly known as the FNB Stadium, is based in Soweto, the Johannesburg township that was a stronghold of support for the anti-apartheid struggle that Mandela embodied as a prisoner of white rule for 27 years.

It was the place where the iconic leader chose to make his first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison in 1990.

And it was also the venue where he made his last public appearance at the closing ceremony of the 2010 World Cup.

Rather than view himself as a counterpart to Mandela, Obama has said he sees himself as one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Mandela’s life.

‘Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him,’ Obama said after Mandela died last week at the age of 95.

In the days following Mandela’s death, Obama began crafting the 20-minute speech he will deliver during Tuesday’s service in Johannesburg, where tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of foreign dignitaries are expected to pack a sports stadium.

Obama is expected to speak of Mandela’s influence on South Africa and on his own life, while also reflecting on the complexity of Mandela’s rise from anti-apartheid fighter and prisoner to president and global icon.

Air Force One touched down at a military base near Johannesburg on Tuesday morning.

Former President George H.W. Bush, the only other living U.S. president, will not attend because the 89-year-old is no longer able to travel long distances, his spokesman Jim McGrath said.

Also traveling with Obama were national security adviser Susan Rice and Attorney General Eric Holder.

For Obama, who was too young to be active in the American civil rights movement, it was Mandela’s struggle against apartheid that first drew him into politics.

He studied Mandela’s speeches and writings while studying at Occidental College from 1979-81 and became active in campus protests against the apartheid government.

‘My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid,’ Obama said last week.

‘The day that (Mandela) was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.’

By the time Obama became president, Mandela had retired from public life. But they did have one in-person meeting, a hastily arranged 2005 encounter while Mandela was visiting Washington.

The South African leader had been encouraged to meet a young black U.S. senator who was a rising star in American politics and invited Obama to visit him at his hotel.

A single photo from the meeting shows the two men smiling and shaking hands, with Obama standing and Mandela sitting, his legs stretched out in front of him.

The photo hangs in Obama’s personal office at the White House, as well as in Mandela’s office in Johannesburg.

 
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe (centre) arrive in Pretoria ahead of the memorial

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe (centre) arrive in Pretoria ahead of the memorial

 

 
Equatorial Guinea's president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (left)
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta
 

Equatorial Guinea’s president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (left) and Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) also arrived in South Africa on Monday night

 

 
Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (centre) is also on the guestlist for the prestigious memorial

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain (centre) is also on the guestlist for the prestigious memorial.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (left) arrives at Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria
Malawi's President Joyce Banda arrives at Waterkloof Airforce Base in Pretoria
 

Obama and Mandela had sporadic contact after that meeting, including a congratulatory phone call from Mandela after Obama’s 2008 election and a condolences call from the U.S. president after the South African’s granddaughter was killed in a 2010 car accident.

In 2011, Mrs Obama and her two daughters held a private meeting with Mandela during a visit to South Africa but the elderly leader was hospitalized and too sick to meet with Obama when he traveled there earlier this year.

Mandela’s ailing health cast a shadow over that trip, heightening the emotion when Obama and his family visited the Robben Island prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

Obama also met with members of Mandela’s family during his July visit and the White House said he hopes to spend time with them again on Tuesday.

 


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