Qunu — Africa is indebted to former president Nelson Mandela for the sacrifices he made to the continent, Ethiopian Prime Minister and African Union chairman Hailemariam Desalegn said on Sunday.
"It is altogether fitting that the entire world pays tribute and bids farewell to this iconic leader and champion of the ideals of justice and liberty," he told mourners at Mandela's state funeral in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape.
He said Mandela held a special place in Ethiopian and African hearts, as he represented the oppression and injustice the continent had to endure from colonisers and their like.
"This moment is even more poignant for Africa... Mandela's life had been [full of the] trials and tribulations [facing the] entire continent. His life was a struggle against unparalleled odds... a life of perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges...
"As a true leader of authentic personification of the ANC, Mandela's life represented what was promising about the continent's future, if we fight injustice... ," Desalegn said.
"If we remain committed to the ideals of justice, liberation and above all the sanctity of human dignity, we can ultimately prevail over evil, no matter how stacked the odds are against us."
Humanity was better off because it had the good fortune of having had Mandela as a source of wisdom and as its torch bearer in times of utter darkness.
"What we are doing today is not so much mourning the passing of an icon...[but] as a celebration of humanity at its finest," he said.
"We should all count ourselves lucky to draw a lesson or two from the life of this towering figure."
Mandela died at his Houghton home, in Johannesburg, last Thursday. He was 95. A memorial service was held at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday. His body lay in state at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, between Wednesday and Friday, when about 100,000 people paid homage to him.
His body was taken to the Eastern Cape on Saturday.