President Jonathan jets off to South Africa, six days ahead of Mandela’s burial

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and his contingent will depart Abuja for South Africa on Monday for the burial of former South African President, Nelson Mandela, fixed for Sunday.

The president announced his travel plans on Sunday. He will be accompanied by the Supervising Minister of Foreign Affairs, Viola Onwuliri.

The special assistant to the president on new media, Reno Omokri, tweeted about Mr. Jonathan’s journey but did not give details about the size of the contingent.

President Jonathan is known to travel with large contingents to foreign engagements.

 

Activities marking the passage of the late global icon started in Nigeria on Friday when the president declared three days of national mourning and prayers.

It continued on Sunday with a church service at the Aso Rock chapel, an event that drew Nigeria’s top politicians.

In South Africa, Mr. Mandela’s final journey to the grave picked up with a national day of prayer and reflection in synagogues, temples, churches, mosques, on Sunday December 8.

On Monday, a joint parliamentary session will hold in honour of Mr. Mandela.

The South African parliament is also organising a special exhibition that traces, in Mandela’s words, the transformation of Parliament and South Africa during his presidency.

The “Madiba Speaks exhibition” will be open on that day.

On Tuesday, a national memorial service will be held across South Africa. The official memorial service will be held at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg. South African President, Jacob Zuma, will address the official memorial service.

Heads of State from all over the world, and representatives of international and regional organisations will pay their tributes at the service. “Eminent persons will also address the gathering,” a statement by the South African government says on Sunday.

It is not clear if President Jonathan plans to speak at the memorial service, but Reuben Abati, the president’s spokesperson, confirmed he will attend the service.

Between Wednesday and Friday, Mr. Mandela’s remains will lie in state at the seat of South African government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria. According to Mr. Abati, President Jonathan will pay his last respect to Mandela on Wednesday.

While mourning continues in South Africa, President Jonathan will leave for Nairobi to attend Kenya’s 50th Independence Anniversary celebrations.

On Saturday, December 14, Mr. Mandela’s remains will be transported to the Eastern Cape from Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, where the ruling party will bid the global icon farewell.

The following day, December 15, Mr. Mandela would be interred at Qunu in the Eastern Cape, bringing a 10-day state funeral to a close.

This event is expected to attract a large contingent of world leaders.

It appears Mr. Jonathan might not be at the interment, with his handlers saying he will return to Nigeria on December 12, three days before Mr. Mandela is laid to rest.

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