Thousands gather for Nelson Mandela's funeral in South Africa

Dec. 15, 2013 at 8:34 AM
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QUNU, South Africa, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- Thousands of mourners gathered in South Africa's Eastern Cape Sunday for the funeral of anti-apartheid activist and former President Nelson Mandela.

The funeral took place in Mandela's childhood village of Qunu and concluded 10 days of mourning following Mandela's Dec. 5 death, the New York Times reported.

Mandela, 95, had been critically ill for long periods of time in recent years.

South African President Jacob Zuma spoke during the ceremony.

"Today marks the end of an extraordinary journey that began 95 years ago," Zuma said. "It is the end of 95 glorious years of a freedom fighter ... a beacon of hope to all those fighting for a just and equitable world order."

About 4,500 people attended the burial, including Britain's Prince Charles along with the presidents of Tanzania and Malawi, as well as celebrities, relatives, and former political prisoners, CNN reported.

"Nelson Mandela was our leader, our hero, our icon and our father as much as he was yours," Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said, who went on to speak about how Mandela secretly visited Tanzania in 1962 to gain support for his the African National Congress.

Mandela served 27 years in prison for fighting to end apartheid in South Africa. He went on to become the country's first black president in 1994, four years after he was freed from prison.

"Whilst your long walk to freedom has ended in the physical sense," Zuma said, "our own journey continues. We have to take your legacy forward."

"As you take your final steps, South Africa will continue to rise," he added.

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