President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma and entourage arrived safely in the South African city of Johannesburg to attend the State Memorial Service for the late former President Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (1918-2013) which took place today Tuesday 10th December at the Soccer City FNB stadium in Soweto.
We arrived in South Africa amidst the heavy downpour of rain in both Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the entire Soweto area. The FNB stadium was full to the brim with South Africans, celebrities within and outside South Africa as well as over 90 national leaders across the world, despite the heavy downpour. The masters of the ceremony were Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa and Ms Baleka Mbete.
As we make our way into the stadium hundreds of mourners also pour in to pay their last respect to the late Nelson Mandela. The refrain of the song "Nelson Mandela, Viva Madiba, tata Father of the Nation" reverberated across the huge FNB stadium with people dancing and singing in celebration of the life of a great African leader, who President Obama referred to in his tribute as a "a giant of history".
"Madiba makes me want to be a better man", President Obama declared at the Memorial Service, and added that, he was a symbol of unity and reconciliation for mankind.
Chinese Vice President, Li Yuanchao said Nelson Mandela was a great leader who laid the foundation for the long term growth of South Africa, saying that Mandela is a household name in China.
Other speakers at the memorial service who paid glowing tribute to the late South African hero were the UN Secretary General, Ban Kin-Moon, President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, President Pranab Mukherjee of India, President Raul Castro Ruz of Cuba and the host, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma, who graciously delivered the keynote address.
According to most South Africans I interacted with, Nelson Mandela is not an icon, but he is very iconic, emphasizing that it was not just through him the world cast its eyes on their country and took notice of the severe and organized repression of black South Africans, but also it was through Madiba that the world would learn the spirit of endurance, the triumph of forgiveness and the beauty of reconciliation.
"This world icon worked tirelessly even after the achievement of democracy in South Africa to continue to improving lives. Even as he retired from politics, his attention shifted to social issues such as HIV and AIDS and the wellbeing of the nation's children.
As a testimony to his sharp political intellect, wisdom and unrelenting commitment to make the world a better place, Mandela formed the prestigious group called The Elders – an independent group of eminent global leaders, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity", according to a statement by the South African Government.
He is survived by his wife Graca, three daughters, 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
It is worthy to note that today's date (10th December) is the day Nelson Mandela signed the new South African Constitution in 1996 marking the beginning of a new era for the people of South Africa.
FNB stadium is home of Kaizer Chiefs football club.