Obama to give speech at Mandela memorial

2013-12-09 19:40
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One to travel to South Africa for a memorial service in honour of Nelson Mandela. (Evan Vucci, AP)

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama board Air Force One to travel to South Africa for a memorial service in honour of Nelson Mandela. (Evan Vucci, AP)

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Air Force One - US President Barack Obama is to give a speech at Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Mandela, an official travelling with Obama said.

Obama, his wife Michelle, former president George Bush and his wife Laura, and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton left Washington for South Africa aboard Air Force One early on Monday.

"We do expect President Obama to speak as part of the programme" at the FNB stadium in Soweto, deputy US national security advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters travelling with the president.

Rhodes added that Obama had worked on his speech over the weekend.

About 80 000 people are expected to gather at the stadium on Tuesday for an emotional tribute to Mandela, who died last week at age 95.

Obama also "would certainly like to have the opportunity... to pay his respects" to Mandela's widow Graça Machel and the rest of his family, Rhodes said.

The US president does not expect to have any bilateral meetings with other world leaders while in South Africa, he added.

Rhodes said the Obamas, the Bushes and Clinton had been talking in Air Force One's conference room during the flight, calling it a "unique experience”.

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were making their own way to South Africa for Tuesday's memorial.

In Washington on Monday, US Vice President Joe Biden paid his respects to Mandela at the South African embassy.

"Mandela's head and heart lifted a nation to freedom. We will continue to keep his spirit alive and strive to live by his example," Biden wrote in the book of condolences.

- Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

- Share your memories of Nelson Mandela with us.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  barack obama  |  johannesburg

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