Nelson Mandela Memorial Service: World Leaders, South Africans Remembered His Spirit of Forgiveness

( [email protected] ) Dec 10, 2013 04:40 AM EST
Nelson Mandela Memorial
The face of Nelson Mandela is shown on a large billboard in the stands at the memorial service. (Photo : Ben Curtis/AP)

Tens of thousands of South African mourners, dozens of presidents and prime ministers, celebrities gathered at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg to honor the life of Nelson Mandela at a memorial service on Tuesday.

As the rain poured, the crowd sang and clapped hands as commoners and dignitaries, including President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Vice President of China, Cuba's President Fidel Castro, filled the stadium's 90,000 seats. Moreover, the entertainment industry was represented by U2's Bono, Oprah Winfrey and Naomi Campbell.

Nelson Mandela Memorial
(Photo : Peter Dejong/AP)
VIPs and dignitaries stand up for the start of the memorial service.

91 heads of state attended the service.

Among the speakers at Tuesday's memorial, President Obama, who like Mandela was his nation's first black president, has cited his first political participation was against the South Africa's apartheid as inspired by Mandela for entering politics. In addition, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also spoke.

Nelson Mandela Memorial
(Photo : Evan Vucci/AP)
President Barack Obama waves as he prepares to speak at the memorial service.

President Barack Obama, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and some of his grandchildren addressed a service honoring the freedom fighter, prisoner, president and Nobel laureate who led South Africa out of apartheid.

"His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy," Obama told the crowd at the 95,000-capacity stadium in Soweto. "The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us."

Ban described Mandela as "one of the greatest leaders of our time."

He added: "South Africa has lost a hero, we have lost a father, the world has lost a beloved friend and mentor. Nelson Mandela showed us the way with a heart larger than this stadium."

Leading an interfaith prayer service held under driving rain, South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein recalled Mandela's "mighty power of forgiveness" and his ability to "to forgive and embrace his brothers and sisters who inflicted so much pain on him and millions of others."

In addition to Obama, former President Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also attend.

SABC TV is playing a tribute, honoring the life and legacy of the late Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon, who died December 5, 2013 at age 95.

South Africa's government has released the list of dignitaries who participated in the event:

Afghanistan: President Hamid Karzai

African Union Commission: Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

Algeria: Abdelkader Bensalah, Speaker of the Council of the Nation

Angola: Vice President Manuel Vicente

Arab States League: Ambassador Amb Samir Hosny

Argentina: Acting President Amado Boudou

Australia: Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Bahamas: Prime Minister Perry Christie

Bangladesh: President Abdul Hamid

Belgium: King Philippe

Benin: President Boni Yayi

Botswana: President Lt Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama

Brazil: President Dilma Rousseff

Burundi: President Pierre Nkurunziza

Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Chad: President Idriss Déby Itno

China: Vice President Li Yuanchao

Commonwealth of Nations: His Excellency, Kamalesh Sharma

Comores: President Ikililou Dhoinine

Congo (Republic of the Congo): President Denis Sassou-Nguesso

Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo): President Joseph Kabila

Côte d'Ivoire: President Allassane Ouattara

Croatia: President Ivo Josipovic

Cuba: President Raúl Castro

Denmark: Crown Prince Federick

Djibouti: President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Ato Hailemariam Desalegn

Equatorial Guinea: President Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mbasogo

European Council: President Herman van Rompuy

France: President François Holland

Finland: President Sauli Väinämö Niinistö

Ghana: President John Dramani Mahama

Guyana: President Donald Ramotar

Gabon: President Ali Bongo Ondimba

Germany: President Joachim Gauck

Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: His Royal Highness Henry of Luxembourg

Guinea: President Alpha Condé

India: President Pranab Mukherjee

Ireland: President Michael D Higgins

Italy: Prime Minister Enrico Letta

Japan: Crown Prince Naruhito

Jamaica: Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller

Jordan: Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour

Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta

Lebanon: Prime Minister Najib Mikati

Lesotho: Prime Minister Thomas Thabane

Liberia: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Mauritania: President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Mauritius: Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam

Malawi: President Joyce Banda

Mexico: President Enrique Peña Nieto

Mozambique: President Armando Emílio Guebuza

Namibia: His Excellency Hifikepunye Pohamba, President

New Zealand: Right Hon John Key, Prime Minister

Niger: President Mahamadou Issoufou

Nigeria: President Goodluck Jonathan

Norway: His Royal Highness Haakon, Crown Prince of Norway

Pakistan: President Mamnoon Hussain

Palestinian State: President Mahmoud Abbas

Poland: Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski

Portugal: President Aníbal Cavaco Silva

Sahrawi Republic: President Mohamed Abdelaziz

Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

Senegal: President Macky Sall

Serbia: President Tomislav Nikolic

Seychelles: President James Alix Michel

Slovenia: President Borut Pahor

South Korea: Prime Minister Hongwon Chung

South Sudan: President Salva Kiir Mayardi

Spain: Felipe de Borbón, The Prince of Asturias

Sri Lanka: President Mahinda Rajapaksa

Suriname: President Desiré Delano Bouterse

Swaziland: Prime Minister Sibusiso Dlamini

Sweden: Princess Victoria and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt

Switzerland: President Ulrich Maurer

Tanzania: President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete

The Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh

Timor-Leste: Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana

Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar

Tunisia: President Mohamed Moncef Marzouki

Uganda: President Yoweri Museveni

United Arab Emirates: Minister of Culture Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan

United Kingdom: Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron

United States of America: His Excellency Barack Obama, President, First Lady Michelle Obama, former president George W. Bush and Laura Bush, former president Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, former president Jimmy Carter, Attorney General Eric Holder, National Security Adviser Susa Rice.

Venezuela: President Nicolás Maduro Moros

Zambia: President Michael Sata

Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe