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Obama, Raul Castro to address Mandela memorial

Published on 09/12/2013

A great unifier in life, in death Nelson Mandela will again bring together political foes Tuesday, when US President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro share a stage at his memorial.

Organisers announced Monday that the two men would be among world leaders to address a crowd of 80,000 people amassed at a stadium in Soweto and millions more watching on from around the world.

Cold War foes, Cuba and the United States have had only limited ties for half a century.

South African President Jacob Zuma will make the keynote address, but other speakers will include UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee.

Representing China will be Vice-President Li Yuanchao.

Four of Mandela’s grandchildren will also take to the podium Tuesday, less than a week after their 95-year-old relative passed away.

Andrew Mlangeni, who spent nearly two decades in the neighbouring prison cell to Mandela on Robben Island, will also speak.

The memorial service, in the venue where Mandela made his last major public appearance for the 2010 World Cup final, is seen as a final chance for grieving South Africans to unite in a mass celebration of his life ahead of the more formal state funeral.

Another 120,000 people will be able to watch a live broadcast of the event on giant screens set up in three overflow stadiums in Johannesburg.