Former Presidents Bush, Clinton to Attend Mandela Service

Schoolchildren Pay Tribute to Nelson Mandela in Karachi
Pakistani schoolchildren hold lamps during a memorial tribute to former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, in Karachi. Photographer: Rizwan Tabassum/AFP via Getty Images

Former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will join President Barack Obama among the dignitaries attending memorial events for former South African leader Nelson Mandela.

Bush and former first lady Laura Bush “have gratefully accepted the President’s and Mrs. Obama’s invitation to accompany them to South Africa on Air Force One and attend President Nelson Mandela’s memorial services next week,” Freddy Ford, a spokesman for the former president, said in an e-mail yesterday.

Clinton also plans to attend, spokesman Matt McKenna said. He said in an e-mail that he didn’t have details on how Clinton would travel. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also will attend, her spokesman, Nick Merrill, said in an e-mail.

Carter, 89, will travel to the memorial events as part of a delegation of The Elders organization, a spokeswoman for the former president said in an e-mail today. The international group was brought together by Mandela in 2007 to promote peace and human rights, according to its website.

Former President George H.W. Bush, also 89, won’t be able to make the trip, spokesman Jim McGrath said in an e-mail.

Mandela, who led South Africa out of the era of apartheid and became country’s first black president in 1994, died Dec. 5 at the age of 95.

Obama’s Condolences

Obama spoke by phone yesterday with Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, to express condolences on behalf of the U.S. and thank her for the late South African leader’s “commitment to a peaceful, fair and loving world,” according to a White House statement.

Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will travel to South Africa next week, though the schedule hasn’t been set, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

A memorial service will be held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Dec. 10. Mandela’s body will lie in state from Dec. 11 to Dec. 13 at the government’s executive headquarters in the Union Buildings in the capital, Pretoria, followed by a state funeral.

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