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A SPECIAL SECTION: Haiti, Since the January 12, 2010 Fierce Earthquake

Posted Tuesday, July 19, 2011 

Mandela: A happy 93d birthday spent with friends, relatives

Nelson Mandela was surrounded yesterday by relatives, including his daughter Princess Zenani Dlamini (center). Nelson Mandela was surrounded yesterday by relatives, including his daughter Princess Zenani Dlamini (center). (Peter Morey Photographic via Associated Press)

JOHANNESBURG - Former President Nelson Mandela spent his 93d birthday with friends and relatives in his rural hometown yesterday, as South Africans paid tribute to the antiapartheid icon through song and community service projects.

Millions of South African schoolchildren began their day by singing a special version of “Happy Birthday’’ to Mandela, leading a worldwide chorus of birthday wishes.

President Obama called Mandela “a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation.’’

South Africa’s current president, Jacob Zuma, paid a visit to Mandela in his home village of Qunu, some 600 miles south of Johannesburg. “I came to spend time with the Mandela family, to rejoice with them, but also to eat cake,’’ Zuma said with a smile. “Mandela is absolutely in good spirits,’’ he said.

Photos released of Mandela showed the 93-year-old smiling broadly while surrounded by relatives.

People around the world were asked to mark his birthday by giving 67 minutes of their time to work in their local community - one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service.

He became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after spending 27 years in prison for his fight against racist rule, and was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

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