barack obama

South African President Jacob Zuma was colossally embarrassed on Tuesday during the memorial service for the demised global icon, Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela, as he was greeted with wild boos and catcalls when he was introduced by the event?s MC and when he got up to deliver his tribute.

This strange spectacle happened in the full glare of hundreds of millions of people watching the programme live on several international news channels.

The situation got out of hand, forcing the African National Congress (ANC) deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, to mount the dais and plead with the crowd to spare the embattled South African President, who was hosting global leaders that had flown in from all over the world to mourn and celebrate the anti-apartheid icon, who died last week at age 95.

President Jacob Zuma was booed at the start of the memorial service for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium in Soweto, in stark contrast to the rapturous applause received by former President Thabo Mbeki.

The crowd at the Soccer City Stadium booed and jeered when Zuma entered the place and made his way onto the stage for the service, which started an hour later than the scheduled starting time of 11:00am.

Winnie Madikizela

The ANC Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa started proceedings by welcoming the various dignitaries present at the stadium.

More booing was heard when Zuma?s name was mentioned, while the crowd cheered loudly when the names of former presidents Kgalema Motlanthe, Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk were mentioned.

Zuma was seen with a stony expression, cleaning his glasses. He was seated between two of his wives, Gloria Bongekile Ngema and Thobeka Stacy Mabhija.

Interestingly and ironically, the same crowd wildly cheered Zimbabwean strongman, Robert Mugabe, who is one of the few remaining dictators in Africa. Mr. Mugabe and US President Barack Obama were perhaps the world leaders who were cheered the most at the iconic memorial service held at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

It is unclear why controversial leaders such as Robert Mugabe, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, among others, would be cheered while Jacob Zuma, apparently the chief mourner, would be singled out for jeers and catcalls.

But this could underpin the turbulent relationship the South African President has developed with his people; he has been a subject of several controversies regarding alleged corruption.

CR?ME DE LA CR?ME

The memorial service to honour the globally acclaimed anti-apartheid revolutionary was a virtual magnet that attracted the most important world leaders from both liberal and autocratic regimes, who had grown to revere the status of Nelson Mandela as a champion of racial co-existence.

The global list of the world?s cr?me de la cr?me attending Tuesday?s memorial event of Nelson Mandela in South Africa spanned acclaimed leaders in politics, business, music and fashion.

South Africans defied the heavy rainfall saying it was a sign of ?the gods welcoming Mandela to heaven?.

As tens of thousands of South Africans converged in sorrow, celebration and pride on Soweto?s World Cup 95,000 capacity stadium, they were seated side-by-side with presidents, priests, kings and queens who preside over global scheme of things.

President Barack Obama had flown in with Air Force One which touched down Tuesday morning at a military base near Johannesburg.

Joining Obama on the 16-hour trip from Washington was First Lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were also scheduled to attend the memorial service, but travelled to South Africa separately.

French President Francois Hollande and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy were present, as well as German President Joachim Gauck.

Three previous British Prime Ministers?Sir John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown?joined current PM David Cameron and deputy, Nick Clegg at the official memorial ceremony.

Zimbabwe?s President, Robert Mugabe, Ghana?s President, John Dramani Mahama and Cuban President, Raul Castro were also pictured arriving at the stadium.

The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, accepted the invitation, but Israel?s top leaders were conspicuously absent.

Israel announced that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor President Shimon Peres would be attending the event, citing costs and health reasons.

Business tycoon, Sir Richard Branson, supermodel Naomi Campbell and musicians Bono, Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel were among those expected at the memorial service.

Mr Obama led a moving tribute along with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The number of dignitaries who attended Tuesday?s event was unprecedented for the memorial service of a fallen world leader.

MAHAMA?s INTERVIEW

A day before the event, Ghana?s President Mahama was interviewed by CNN?s Christiane Amanpour, when he made a detour to the Bard College in New York USA to deliver the inaugural Chinua Achebe Leadership Forum lecture.

?Growing up as a young student in secondary school, Nelson Mandela was an icon for us,? President John Dramani Mahama told Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

Describing his first encounter with Mandela outside a lift, he said; ?I was shocked; I was frozen; I couldn?t utter a word. He nodded in my direction. I was so shocked I couldn?t nod in response.?

?This was a man I had revered over the years. I had marched for him; I had demonstrated for him; I held placards calling for his release. And then the opportunity to meet him?I was so frozen I couldn?t even talk to him,? he said.

OBAMA RILES WORLD LEADERS

President Obama took the spotlight of the event delivering a heartfelt eulogy to the memory of the iconic Mandela.

?Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit? his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.?

The US President took a swipe at world leaders paying mere lip-service to the ideals of Nelson Mandela: ?There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba?s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba?s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.?

?We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world?you can make his life?s work your own?I will always fall short of Madiba?s example, he makes me want to be better,? he admitted.

HISTORIC HANDSHAKE

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On his way to the podium, the President Obama shook hands with Raul Castro of Cuba, whose brother, Fidel, had long been one of the fiercest enemies of the U.S.

The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since the communist revolution of 1959, and their leaders are believed to have not communicated with each other in recent years.

By Raphael Ofori-Adeniran

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