, JOHANNESBURG, Dec 8 – Fifty-three heads of state and government have so far confirmed attendance at upcoming memorial events for peace icon Nelson Mandela, South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Sunday.
The dignitaries will include US President Barack Obama, along with three former American presidents, Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
There has been “unprecedented interest” to attend the statesman’s funeral week after he died Thursday night, Nkoana-Mashabane told a news conference in Johannesburg.
Many leaders will attend a memorial service Tuesday at the Soccer City stadium, where Mandela made his last major public appearance during the 2010 football World Cup.
A smaller group would travel to the Nobel peace laureate’s rural childhood village Qunu for his funeral service and burial next Sunday.
Scores of dignitaries are also expected to attend, including UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Martti Ahtisaari, Lakhdar Brahimi, Mary Robinson.
Talk show queen Oprah Winfrey and singer-activist Bono, as well as Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel are expected to be among the celebrity mourners.
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Britain’s Prince Charles, representing Queen Elizabeth II, will also attend.