Rwandan leader praises Mandela

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Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, 2nd left, pays his respects to former South African president Nelson Mandela on the last day of Mandela's lying in state at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Picture: Alexander Joe/Pool

Pretoria -

The global outpouring of grief and the respect accorded former president Nelson Mandela was befitting, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in Pretoria on Friday.

“The history of president Mandela speaks for itself in the context of the struggle of the people of South Africa, the people of the African continent and beyond,” he said after viewing Mandela's body lying in state at the Union Buildings.

“The kind of respect that people across the world have paid to president Mandela is therefore fitting. That’s why these moments are very important.

“It is a moment that I needed to take, to come and pay my last respects to president Mandela.”

Kagame said that what Mandela symbolised was not just African, but went beyond this.

“For everyone on the continent and beyond, there are lessons to learn from the experiences that president Mandela went through in his many years of life.”

Thousands of people streamed past Mandela’s glass-topped casket at the Union Buildings on Friday.

The occasion proved too much for some. Several women started wailing, and others fell down and had to be helped.

Soldiers and the police assisted the elderly, pregnant women, the weak and the disabled. People in wheelchairs were carried up the stairs to the Union Buildings.

Earlier, US civil rights activist Jesse Jackson viewed Mandela’s body.

He said that instead of retaliating against the apartheid regime, Mandela had uniquely chosen to forgive and reconcile after being released from jail.

“He had endured 27 years of persecution. It was a big moment in history when he was released. There is a lot about his willingness to forgive and move on.

“He has brought us to another stage where we are now free to vote, to pursue education and to travel. I am just pained over watching him for one, perhaps, last time.”

Jackson lined up with the thousands of people who viewed Mandela's body lying in state for the third and final day on Friday.

He said Mandela had been blessed with a long life, which he lived to the fullest.

“Something unique is the gift of longevity that God gave him and he used it to make big choices. When he was released after so much persecution he could have chosen revenge, but he chose redemption.

“He could have chosen retaliation but he chose reconciliation,” said Jackson.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, last Thursday, at the age of 95.

His state funeral will take place on Sunday in Qunu in the Eastern Cape. - Sapa

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