Nelson Mandela memorial: Notable absentees

Mourners at a memorial for Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium (Soccer City) in Johannesburg, South Africa
Image caption World leaders and mourners braved the rain at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City) in Johannesburg

Dozens of world leaders gathered in Johannesburg on Tuesday 10 December for the national memorial service for former President Nelson Mandela. Among the notable absentees were a number of leaders including the Russian, Chinese and Israeli and Iranian presidents, all of whom sent lower-level officials to represent their countries.


Russia is being represented at the mourning events in South Africa by the speaker of the upper house Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko. President Vladimir Putin on Monday night visited the South African embassy in Moscow, where he left a message in the book of condolences opened following Mr Mandela's death, Interfax news agency reported.

Image caption Russian President Putin signed a book of condolences

There has been very little comment in Russian media on anything to do with Mr Mandela's funeral. It was not necessarily expected that Mr Putin would attend the memorial service. The Russian president has his annual state-of-the-nation address to deliver early on Thursday.

Liberal Russian journalist Inessa Zemler tweeted on Monday that "Putin probably finds it hard to contemplate that someone can become president after 27 years in prison". The dig is probably a reference to Yukos ex-boss Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, imprisoned for 10 years so far on what his supporters say are politically motivated charges.

Israel, Iran, China

The Times of Israel website reports that Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein is leading a delegation of six Knesset members to South Africa to represent Israel at Mr Mandela's memorial service.

The announcement came hours after President Shimon Peres said he would not attend the memorial for medical reasons, and a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would also skip the trip because of logistical and cost issues.

In Iran, there have been widespread reports and denials over the past few days about who would attend the Mandela events in Johannesburg.

Initial reports suggested Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif might attend. Later reports said the two finally changed their mind to avoid a face-to-face meeting with US President Barack Obama.

Finally, the Iranian government decided to send Vice President Mohammad Shariatmadari to the memorial.

Image caption Israeli President Shimon Peres is, like Mr Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate

An editorial by Javid Qorban Oghli in reformist paper Sharq expressed the hope that President Rouhani and former President Khatami might yet attend, "so that Iran's international figures show that pioneers of struggle for human values and anti-racism can stand shoulder to shoulder".

Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao is in South Africa to attend Mr Mandela's memorial service as a special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Xinhua news agency reports. No Chinese reports have been seen speculating on why President Xi was not attending in person.

Sudan, Egypt, Czech

Sudan's newly appointed First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh is representing Sudan at Mr Mandela's memorial.

A spokesman for the Sudanese embassy confirmed to South Africa's Sunday Independent newspaper that President Omar al-Bashir would not be going, in order to avoid any complications associated with his indictment by the International Criminal Court.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said an official delegation headed by Mohammed Faiq, head of the National Council of Human Rights, is representing Egypt at Mr Mandela's memorial service.

Sources say Mr Faiq, who served as a state commissioner for African affairs during Gamal Abdel Nasser's rule, attended several international human rights conferences and forums along with Nelson Mandela.

Image caption Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir faces two international arrest warrants

There has been speculation that Egypt does not want to embarrass its interim president or foreign minister during the memorial. South Africa was outspoken in criticising the ousting of former President Mohammed Morsi on 30 June and described it as a coup d'etat. The African Union (AU) has suspended Egypt's membership as a result.

Czech Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok was caught admitting on public Czech TV that he is "dreading" attending Nelson Mandela's funeral on 15 December.

He made the unguarded remarks when being told that President Milos Zeman would not be able to go to the funeral due to a knee injury. Mr Rusnok was heard swearing loudly and complaining that he had lunch and dinner engagements that would be disrupted by the trip to South Africa.

He was also heard asking about who was going to pay for this trip. His comments were picked up by the state broadcaster and transmitted on national television. Mr Rusnok has since apologised for his remarks, saying it was "not correct to use such terms in connection with the death of Nelson Mandela".

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