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World Leaders, South Africans Honor Mandela

By: The Associated Press Email
By: The Associated Press Email

JOHANNESBURG (AP) Despite a steady rain, the mood at a soccer stadium in Johannesburg today has been one of celebration.

Nearly 100 heads of state and government were among the tens of thousands who gathered to remember Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95.

President Barack Obama received thunderous applause for a speech in which he urged the world to embrace Mandela's universal message of peace and justice. He said many of those who hail Mandela's achievements are still resisting what Obama calls "modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality."

The rain didn't dampen the spirits of the tens of thousands of South Africans there. Rain is seen as a blessing among South Africa's majority black population. One man said, "This is perfect weather for us on this occasion."

Still, the weather and some public transportation problems may have kept many people away. The 95,000-capacity stadium was only two-thirds full.

In contrast to the wild applause given to Obama, South African President Jacob Zuma was booed. Many South Africans are unhappy with him because of state corruption scandals.

The world leaders who attended the memorial included some from countries like Cuba that don't hold fully democratic elections. On his way to the podium, Obama shook hands with Cuba's Raul Castro, a sign of recent warming relations between the two countries.


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