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Memory Of Mandela Hangs Heavy At African Leaders' Summit


From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block. Dozens of African leaders received word of Nelson Mandela's death yesterday as they gathered in Paris for a two-day summit. The goal was to promote peace and security across Africa. At the top of the agenda, the troubled Central African Republic not at risk of genocide. Nelson Mandela's death now overshadows the gathering. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, it's made Africa's leaders more determined to make progress.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: As the leaders of 53 African nations arrived at the Elysee Palace, French President Francois Hollande met each one on the red carpet in front of a cluster of cameras. The traditional France-Africa summit comes just as the UN has authorized French and African troops to intervene to protect civilians in Central African Republic where warring Christian and Muslim factions have been massacring people. But Mandela's departure overshadowed even that.

Hollande opened the summit speaking next to a giant poster of a smiling, waving Madiba.

PRESIDENT ,: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Destiny has brought Africa here to Paris the day after Nelson Mandela's death, he said. That's a symbol and a responsibility. One of the goals of this year's summit is to build Pan African peacekeeping capabilities. South African Foreign Minister Maite Nikoana-Mashabane said Mandela was right to say the continent must find African solutions to African problems. Summit participants rose from their chairs as a recording of Mandela's voice boomed out in tribute.

NELSON MANDELA: (Unintelligible) to raise up against a social system whose very essence is war.

BEARDSLEY: Dramatic photos of South Africa's first black president hung in the gilded meeting hall.

LAO CINE CAMERA: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: African journalist Lao Cine Camera(ph) from Guinea says Mandela became a hero to nearly every African in the 1960s when he began fighting the white apartheid regime. But for Camera the greatest example Mandela set was stepping down after only one term. For Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank, building Africa's economy is the most fitting tribute to Mandela's legacy.

DONALD KABERUKA: I think we owe to Nelson Mandela, to Madiba, to complete the task he began because he believed in the promise of his continent. Now that task is not yet completed because economic development, social advancements. We owe him to complete that task.

BEARDSLEY: Harold Hyman is a foreign policy analyst for French TV BFM. He thinks too much is being made over Mandela's death.

HAROLD HYMAN: Mandela has been sort of a virtuous mantel that everybody is putting on because - so there's sort of a feel-good factor. But it might be detracting from the hard work that has to be done.

BEARDSLEY: But in Paris outside the South African embassy, hundreds of French people gathered to mourn a man who has become a universal symbol of resistance to oppression and injustice. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.