Today 10 December
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Joyous, singing South Africans gathered in the rain Tuesday to honor Nelson Mandela at a massive memorial service that is expected to draw some 100 heads of state and other luminaries, united in tribute to a global symbol of reconciliation.
Soweto (South Africa) (AFP) - Tens of thousands of South Africans converged in sorrow, celebration and pride Tuesday on Soweto's World Cup stadium, to sit side-by-side with presidents, priests and queens at a memorial service for unifying global icon Nelson Mandela. Close to 100 world leaders were among 80,000 people expected to cram into the venue in Soweto -- the crucible of Mandela's anti-apartheid struggle -- to bid farewell to a man whose life story earned uncommon universal respect. Despite the profound sense of national sorrow triggered by Mandela's death last Thursday, the mood was upbeat, with people determined to celebrate the memory of one of the 20th century's towering political figures. Wrapped in the South African flag or yellow-green coloured shawls printed with the slogan "Mandela Forever," they danced and sang -- oblivious to a persistent morning drizzle.
By Stella Mapenzauswa and David Dolan JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - World leaders from U.S. President Barack Obama to Cuba's Raul Castro joined thousands of South Africans to honor Nelson Mandela on Tuesday in a memorial that will celebrate his gift for bringing enemies together across political and racial divides. Obama's plane, carrying the U.S. leader and former president George W. Bush and their wives Michelle and Laura, touched down at Waterkloof airport as singing, dancing South Africans made their way in rain to the Johannesburg soccer stadium where the homage to Mandela was to be held. Obama and Castro, whose countries maintain an ideological enmity lasting more than 50 years, are among the designated orators at the Soccer City stadium where 23 years earlier Mandela - freshly freed from apartheid jail - was hailed by cheering supporters as the hope for a new South Africa.
Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - French troops on Monday began disarming fighters in the Central African Republic to try to restore security after a swell in sectarian violence that claimed hundreds of lives. Bangui was relatively calm after days of fighting involving former Seleka rebels in which nearly 400 people were killed, although the stench of dead bodies still permeated some areas of the capital. The armed men who spread terror on the streets of Bangui had all but disappeared by Monday, and French military spokesman Gilles Jaron said some had already disarmed. France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to the notoriously unstable country, which has plunged into chaos since the Seleka rebels seized power in a March coup, with reports of widespread rape and public killings.
South African security forces had only days to implement a rough plan for Nelson Mandela's grand funeral, based partly on blueprints of past major events like the 2010 World Cup final. South Africa's first black president had been seriously ill for some time, but his death still posed a major organisational challenge as a small army of world leaders, dignitaries and celebrities asked to attend the state send-off. Security preparations which would normally take months for the likes of US President Barack Obama had to be compressed into a few days. After that, Mandela's body will lie in state for three days in Pretoria before being taken for burial Sunday in his rural boyhood home of Qunu.