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Sunday, December 15 2013, 05:56 PM MST
Mandela Buried in Rolling Hills of South Africa
QUNU, South Africa (AP) His flag-draped casket resting on a carpet of
animal skins, Nelson Mandela was laid to rest Sunday in the green,
rolling hills of the eastern hamlet where he began his extraordinary
journey one that led him from prison to the presidency, a global symbol
of endurance and reconciliation in the fight against South Africa's
racist rule.

Artillery boomed and military aircraft roared
through a cloud-studded sky, as the simple and the celebrated gathered
to pay their final respects in Mandela's native village of Qunu at a
state funeral that blended ancient tribal rituals with a display of the
might of the new, integrated South Africa.

"Yours was truly a
long walk to freedom and now you have achieved the ultimate freedom in
the bosom of your maker," Brig. Gen. Monwabisi Jamangile,
chaplain-general of the South African military, said as Mandela's casket
was lowered into the ground at the family gravesite. "Rest in peace."

"I
realized that the old man is no more, no more with us," said Bayanda
Nyengule, head of a local museum about Mandela, his voice cracking as he
described the burial attended by several hundred mourners after a
larger funeral ceremony during which some 4,500 people, including heads
of state, royalty and celebrities, paid their last respects.

The
burial ended a 10-day mourning period that began with Mandela's death on
Dec. 5 at 95, and included a Johannesburg memorial attended by nearly
100 world leaders and three days during which tens of thousands of South
Africans of all races and backgrounds filed past Mandela's casket in
the capital, Pretoria.

For South Africans, it was also a time for
reflection about the racial integration they achieved when Mandela
presided over the end of apartheid, and the economic inequality and
other challenges that have yet to be overcome and seem certain to test
his legacy's endurance.

The burial site marked a return to
Mandela's humble roots, but the funeral trappings were elaborate. South
African honor guards from the army, navy and air force, including both
black and white officers, marched in formation along a winding dirt
road.

In contrast to the military pomp, some speakers evoked the
traditions of the Xhosa tribe, to which Mandela's Thembu clan belongs.

"A
great tree has fallen, he is now going home to rest with his
forefathers," said Chief Ngangomhlaba Matanzima, a representative of
Mandela's family who wore an animal skin. "We thank them for lending us
such an icon."

Another speaker, Zolani Mkiva, served for many
years as Mandela's praise singer, a traditional role in which he shouted
out the leader's attributes to audiences, prefacing Mandela's many
stations in life with the words "very important:" person, prince,
patriot, politician, prisoner, philosopher, president, pensioner,
patient, papa.

"The bones of our ancestors are vibrating. The waves of African oceans are reverberating," Mkiva said.

In
keeping with Xhosa traditions, Mandela's casket was brought to Qunu
Saturday draped in a lion skin, an honor bestowed on those of a high
rank like Mandela, who is the son of a traditional clan chief. His body
lay for the night in his family home before burial, a time when
tradition dictates that family elders "talk" to the body to explain to
his spirit what is happening.

South African television showed
Mandela's casket at the family gravesite, but the broadcast was stopped
just before the coffin was lowered into the ground at the request of the
Mandela family, which often talked of how it had to share its patriarch
with the nation and the world.

His body was buried around noon,
"when the sun is at its highest and the shadow at its shortest," said
Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy leader of the country's ruling party, the
African National Congress.

Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner
of apartheid, then emerged to lead a delicate transition to democracy
when many South Africans feared the country would sink into all-out
racial conflict. He became president in the first all-race elections in
1994 and served one five-year term.

At the funeral ceremony,
Mandela's portrait looked over the assembly from behind a bank of 95
candles representing each year of his life. His casket, transported to
the tent on a gun carriage and draped in the national flag, rested on a
carpet of cow skins.

Mandela's widow, Graca Machel, and his
ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, were dressed in black Xhosa head
wraps and dresses. Guests included veterans of the military wing of the
ANC, as well as U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard and other foreign
envoys.

Britain's Prince Charles, Monaco's Prince Albert II,
Oprah Winfrey, billionaire businessman Richard Branson and former
Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also were there.

At
one spot overlooking Mandela's compound, several hundred people gathered
to watch the televised ceremony. A group of Zulu traditional dancers
with spears and shields gathered nearby to pay their last respects to
Mandela.

"He's a first class guy in the world," dancer Musa Ngunbane said.

Ahmed
Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist who was jailed on Robben Island
with Mandela, remembered his old friend's "abundant reserves" of love,
patience and tolerance. He said it was painful when he saw Mandela for
the last time, months ago in his hospital bed.

"He tightly held
my hand, it was profoundly heartbreaking," Kathrada said, his voice
breaking at times. "How I wish I never had to confront what I saw. I
first met him 67 years ago and I recall the tall, healthy strong man,
the boxer, the prisoner who easily wielded the pick and shovel when we
couldn't do so."

Recalling her grandfather's simple roots, Nandi
Mandela said he went barefoot to school as a boy in Qunu, where he
herded cattle before eventually became president and a figure of global
renown.

"It is to each of us to achieve anything you want in life," she said.

In
the Xhosa language, she referred to her grandfather by his clan name:
"Go well, Madiba. Go well to the land of our ancestors, you have run
your race."


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.Mandela Buried in Rolling Hills of South Africa

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