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Nelson Mandela Memorial Service: Obama Names Him 'Giant of History'

In what may be biggest send off in history, Nelson Mandelawill be honoured over the next week by leaders like Robert Mugabe and Barack Obama. At least 100 heads of state are expected to pay their respects over the next week. Along with celebrities, these world leaders paid their respects to South Africa’s former leader today in a football stadium in Soweto.

This event must have been a security nightmare for the organisers with so many well-known faces among the 95,000 strong crowd. Before the event, Clayson Monyela of South Africa’s foreign ministry said: “It’s unprecedented. I don’t think there has been a funeral service like it in recent memory.” Workman at the FNB stadium toiled before the event to get a stage erect and to put bullerproof glass in place.

Jacob Zuma gave a speech which was long on history and short on information. He was booed as he approached the stage and probably overstayed his welcome. His final words about South Africa “continuing to build a country free of hunger, homelessness and inequality” hit home but little else was worth reporting.

PHOTO GALLERY: Nelson Mandela Memorial Service in Pictures

Barrack Obama’s speech was described by most onlookers as the highlight of the day. America’s leader said he was there to “celebrate a life like no other,” and he thanked South Africa for “sharing Nelson Mandela with us.” He tried to sum up the “essential truth” of Mandela which he confessed was difficult for such “a giant of history”. There was talk of Mandela’s “brutal imprisonment”, and America’s leader said that Mandela gave “voice to claims of the oppressed” and fought “racial justice” but too much of Obama’s speech referred to American history, which Obama used to timeline the events of Mandela’s life almost as if the South African public in the FNB stadium weren’t aware of the great man’s life.

Most of the crowd went when Obama finished his speech that will no doubt become known as his “man who changed mankind” speech.

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