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Nelson Mandela buried at family plot in Qunu

The body of South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, has been buried in his hometown of Qunu in Eastern Cape province. He was laid to rest after a final farewell ceremony for some 4,500 guests.

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Nelson Mandela buried at his ancestral home

Family members, political leaders, tribal elders and relgious functionaries offered eulogies for Nelson Mandela on Sunday, before his body was interred in his childhood home of Qunu.

"Madiba, we will miss your smile, your laughter, your love and your leadership," South African President Jacob Zuma said. "While your long walk to freedom has ended in a physical sense, our own journey continues."

Nelson Mandela's coffin began its final journey to his family's burial site in Qunu in the province of Eastern Cape early on Sunday, accompanied by soldiers, artillery salutes and music.

Pallbearers then brought the coffin, draped in a South African flag, into a huge tent erected on the Mandela family compound.

Mandela was a key leader in South Africa's struggle against Apartheid, spent 27 years in jail, shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with former President Frederik Willem de Klerk and then became South Africa's first black president in 1995.

Mandela's widow Graca Machel, his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and grandson and heir Mandla walked behind the coffin as it was moved into the marquis to a rendition of the Xhosa hymn "Lizalis' idinga lakho," "Fulfil Your Promise."

Baleka Mbete, National Chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) and a former speaker of parliament, described the event as South Africa's "first fully-fledged state funeral" in her opening remarks.

Culmination of 10 days of mourning

"He leaves us with a new constitution, a set of laws, institutions, policies, a developing human rights ethos, a developing culture of transparency, mutual respect and democracy – that's the testimony of the leadership of our leader who lies here today," Mbete said of Mandela.

A large portrait of Mandela, smiling and graying, and apparently taken in his latter phase of life, was displayed behind the speaker's podium.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu was among the roughly 4,500 guests, despite him saying on Saturday that he had not received an invitation.

Britain's Prince Charles, former French President Lionel Jospin, US civil rights activist Reverend Jesse Jackson and Zimbabwean former prime minister Morgan Tsangvirai were among the international guests at the early morning ceremony.

Request for privacy

Following the marquis service, Mandela's body was buried during a smaller gathering of family and friends, where journalists were asked to observe a request for privacy.

The coffin was placed in its final resting place a little later than the desired target of noon local time (1000 UTC), after an emotional set of final eulogies ran slightly longer than planned.

Mandela died, aged 95, on December 5 in his Johannesburg home after a long battle with a respiratory illness.

His death prompted a 10-day period of national mourning across South Africa. That included a massive stadium ceremony and a three days over which Mandela's body lay in state during a public viewing in the capital, Pretoria.

Mandela had always expressed a personal desire to be buried in his childhood home.

msh/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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