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Former President Bush to join Obamas at Mandela's memorial

Dec. 6, 2013 at 8:58 PM   |   Comments

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died at age 95 after a long illness, will be buried in the province where he was born, officials said.

South African President Jacob Zuma said Mandela will lie in state at the government Union Buildings in Pretoria before being transferred to Qunu in Eastern Cape province for burial Dec. 15, the Wall Street Journal reported.

An official memorial service will be conducted in Johannesburg Tuesday, as well as services in all provinces across the country.

"We will spend the week mourning his passing ... and a life well lived that we must emanate for the betterment of our country and Africa," Zuma said in a television broadcast.

Expressions of condolences and remembrances of Mandela poured in from world leaders.

President Obama said Mandela's courage, kindness and humility stirred millions of people, including himself.

Obama spoke with Zuma by phone Thursday evening to express his "heartfelt condolences."

On Friday, Obama spoke with Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, to express his condolences, the White House said.

Former U.S. President George W. Bush and his wife Laura plan to join the Obamas aboard Air Force One when the president and first lady travel to South Africa for Mandela's memorial, Politico reported.

Former President George H.W. Bush does not plan to travel because of health issues, a spokesman for the former president said.

Mandela, a leader in the anti-apartheid movement and South Africa's first black president, died Thursday after battling a series of lung infections during the past several years. He had contracted tuberculosis during his 27 years in prison.

Mandela spent three months in a hospital before being released in September to be treated at home.

After retiring from politics, Mandela spent much of his time in Qunu.

Mandela was born in Mvezo, also in Eastern Cape province, in 1918, where his grandson, Mandla Mandela, is now chief, and moved to Qunu when he was 2 years old.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in Tel Aviv, Israel, said, "our hearts are in Johannesburg with all the millions who loved Nelson Mandela ... he was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation," in a statement.

"Our nation has lost its greatest son," Zuma said in a globally televised address late Thursday night. "His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion and his humanity earned him their love."

Obama expressed to Zuma "how profoundly Mandela's extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness and humility influenced his own life, as well as those of millions around the world," the White House said.

Obama spoke about the former South African president's influence earlier Thursday.

"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 in the White House press briefing room.

Mandela and Obama both served as the first black leaders of their nations, and both won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Pope Francis Friday paid tribute to Mandela, expressing hope Mandela's example would inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and common good at the forefront to guide their aspirations.

In a telegram to Zuma, the pontiff expressed sadness at Mandela's passing and sent his condolences, the Vatican reported.

"Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation's citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of non-violence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late president's example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations," the message read. "With these sentiments, I invoke upon all the people of South Africa divine gifts of peace and prosperity."

The United Nations' flag was lowered to half-staff Friday at its New York headquarters, and the 193-member General Assembly offered a moment of silence in Mandela's honor.

Assembly President John Ashe said Mandela's life and actions "demonstrates the difference one person can make in the face of adversity, oppression and prejudice, while maintaining a disposition of humility, humor and modesty so rare among people of his stature."

Mandela was released from his life sentence in 1990 amid an international lobbying campaign, economic sanctions against the apartheid government and escalating domestic civil strife.

Mandela later forged a peaceful end to apartheid by negotiating with his captors, including President F.W. de Klerk.

They established multiracial elections in 1994 -- the first fully democratic election in the country's history -- in which Mandela led the African National Congress, a long-banned liberation movement, to a resounding victory.

He served one term as president and has not been seen in public after 2010 when South Africa hosted soccer's FIFA World Cup.

The Dalai Lama said in a letter sent to Mandela's family Friday he would miss his "dear friend," whom he said he hoped to see again.

"He was a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity, a great human being, someone of whom we can truly say, 'He lived a meaningful life,'" the letter quoted on the Dalai Lama's website said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh likened Mandela to Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to independence from Britain in 1947 using non-violent civil disobedience. Gandhi's approach inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

"A giant among men has passed away," Singh said of Mandela in a Twitter message. "This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian."

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