WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama will fly to South Africa next week for memorial events in honor of Nelson Mandela, the White House said Friday.
First lady Michelle Obama will accompany the president in his trip to pay respects to the memory of Nelson Mandela and to participate in memorial events, spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
The first black president in South Africa from 1994 to 1999, Mandela died of illness on Thursday at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95.
In a televised statement made at the White House on Thursday, a saddened Obama mourned the death of Mandela, his "personal hero", saying "He achieved more than could be expected of any man."
In a proclamation signed later that day, Obama ordered an immediate lowering of flags for Mandela at the White House, upon all public buildings, at all military posts and foreign missions until sunset of next Monday.
As the first black president in U.S. history, Obama had never met Mandela face-to-face in his life. When he visited South Africa in June, the anti-apartheid icon was hospitalized with a recurring lung infection.
Obama and his family visited a jail cell instead on Robben Island where Mandela was held for 18 of his 27 years in captivity during South Africa's apartheid era.
South African President Jacob Zuma announced Friday a period of mourning for Mandela, with a state funeral and burial slated for Dec. 15.