JOHANNESBURG – Four American presidents, along with more than 60 other world leaders, will travel to South Africa this week to honor former President Nelson Mandela.
South Africa has never hosted so many world leaders, or faced such daunting logistical and security challenges. Most, including President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, will attend a memorial on Tuesday at the 90,000-seat soccer stadium in Soweto.
A select few will attend Mandela’s private funeral Sunday in Qunu, his home village.
The Obamas will be joined at the memorial by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush. Former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, are expected to attend one of the events, but it was not clear which one. The only other living U.S. president, George H. W. Bush, has been in frail health and will not make the trip.
Among the others expected for one of the events are U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Prince Charles, representing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth; and celebrities including Oprah Winfrey and Bono.
South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said Sunday that there had been “unprecedented interest” from global leaders in attending the memorial or funeral.
One man who won’t be there is the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader. The Dalai Lama has been denied visas during previous efforts to travel to South Africa, reflecting the sensitivities of China, one of South Africa’s most important trading partners. A spokesman for the Buddhist leader, Tenzin Taklha, said the Dalai Lama did not plan to attend, according to South Africa’s head of public diplomacy, Clayson Monyela.
According to Monyela, nations whose leaders are expected include: Afghanistan, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Croatia, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, India, Ireland, Israel, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Swaziland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia and Turkey.