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World leaders gather to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela

Leaders, heads of state, and celebrities from around the world gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to pay tribute to a towering figure in international history on Tuesday.
Johannesburg, South Africa (WSYR-TV) – Leaders, heads of state, and celebrities from around the world gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to pay tribute to a towering figure in international history on Tuesday.

South Africa’s former president and revered leader Nelson Mandela, who is largely credited with guiding the nation out of the apartheid era, passed away on Friday at the age of 95.

Several US presidents traveled to join the gathering – including President Barack Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter.

According to CNN.com, more than 90 heads of state joined throngs of South Africans at the memorial event at the FNB Stadium.

Born in 1918, Mandela was the son of a tribal leader in a remote African community.

His meteoric rise to national - and international - stature began in 1952 when he helped organize the Defiance Campaign in protest of apartheid.

Mandela became commander of the African National Congress' military wing in 1961 and was imprisoned in 1962 on a charge that he incited a strike.

Shortly afterward, he was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the white government.

During his years in prison, Mandela became emblematic of the black struggle for equality and freedom in South Africa - even as the white government banned depictions of the legendary leader.

In 1994, Mandela was elected as South Africa's first black president.

More than 4,000 deaths preceded the nation's first fully free elections in 1994.

He retired from the presidency in 1999.

More details on the event memorializing Mandela are available on CNN.com.

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