WASHINGTON DC —
South Africa is preparing to host scores of world leaders who are expected to attend Tuesday's memorial service for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who died last week at the age of 95.
U.S President Barack Obama, along with former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter are making the trek to Johannesburg where the service will be held at FNB Stadium, the site of the 2010 world cup.
George H.W. Bush is the only living former U.S. president who will not attend the event. His spokesman said the 89-year-old Mr. Bush is no longer able to travel long distances.
South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Koana-Mashabane said there has been "unprecedented interest" from world leaders who want to attend the event, which will be held under heavy security.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, Cuban President Raul Castro, Prince Charles and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are among others also expected to attend the service for Mr. Mandela, who emerged from 27 years in prison to become South Africa's first black president.
The majority of African leaders include President Robert Mugabe, who left Harare on Monday, ahead of memorial’s service Tuesday.
American talk show host Oprah Winfrey and Irish singer-activist Bono, as well as British billionaire Richard Branson are also expected to attend.
The global leaders and celebrities will join tens of thousands of mourners at the stadium.
Mr. Mandela's remains will lie in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria - the official seat of the South African government - on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
The memorials and events will culminate in Mr. Mandela's burial on December 15 in his boyhood home of Qunu. There, however, are concerns about security at this major event.
But South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said they are fully prepared.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera, who is also MDC-T international relations director, said the unprecedented number of world leaders attending is enough testimony of Mandela’s greatness.