Obama to attend memorial events in honour of Mandela

Washington, Dec 7: US President Barack Obama will fly to South Africa next week to attend the memorial events to be held in honour of Nelson Mandela, the White House said Friday.

First lady Michelle Obama will accompany the president during his trip to pay respects to the memory of Mandela and to participate in memorial events, Xinhua reported citing spokesperson Jay Carney in a statement.

Carney, however, did not say whether Obama would attend a large memorial service Dec 10 or a private burial service Dec 15, or both, the USA Today reported. “We’ll have further updates on timing and logistics as they become available,” Carney said.

At least two former presidents — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — will also fly to South Africa next week for Mandela memorials.

Mandela, an anti-apartheid icon and first black president of South Africa (1994 to 1999), died of illness Thursday at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95.

South African President Jacob Zuma announced Friday a period of mourning for Mandela, with a state funeral and burial slated for Dec 15.

On Thursday, a saddened Obama mourned the death of Mandela, his “personal hero”, saying “He achieved more than could be expected of any man.”

In a proclamation signed later that day, Obama ordered an immediate lowering of flags for Mandela at the White House, upon all public buildings, at all military posts and foreign missions until sunset of next Monday.

As the first black president in US history, Obama could never meet Mandela face-to-face. When he visited South Africa in June, the anti-apartheid icon was hospitalised with a recurring lung infection.

Obama and his family visited a jail cell instead on Robben Island where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in captivity during South Africa’s apartheid era.

IANS