About 70 world leaders are expected to attend memorial events for the late South African President Nelson Mandela over the next week.
“The world literally is coming to South Africa,” said Clayson Monyela, the head of public diplomacy in the South African government, according to The New York Times. “I don’t think it has ever happened before.”
In addition to the U.S. delegation, the South African government confirmed the following major leaders will attend memorial events: Cuban leader Raúl Castro, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, French President François Hollande and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
British Prime Minister David Cameron will attend the national memorial service on Tuesday, and Prince Charles is expected to attend Mandela’s funeral on Dec. 15.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Monday that he is sending his deputy, Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari, to the Tuesday memorial service.
The event would be “among the biggest gatherings of world leaders in history,” South Africa's department of international relations and cooperation said Monday.
President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama departed Washington early Monday for Johannesburg, where the national memorial service for Mandela will be held Tuesday. A soccer stadium with a 95,000-seat capacity will host the ceremony. Overflow areas are expected to be needed.
Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accompanied the Obamas on Air Force One. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will arrive in South Africa separately.
Mandela died last Thursday at 95 after suffering from poor health for a year. His remains will lie in state Wednesday and Thursday in Pretoria, the capital, before the funeral on Sunday.