Addis Ababa - African Union leaders gathered Sunday to mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, honouring the former anti-apartheid leader's fight for pan-Africanism and liberation on the continent.
"Madiba's life was the mirror image of the continent for the liberation of which he so relentlessly fought," AU Chairperson and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said, referring to Mandela.
Photos of Mandela flanked the AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, while video footage of the former South African president played throughout the memorial service.
Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95.
Hailemariam urged Africa to draw lessons from Mandela's life in order to build a prosperous future.
"If we fight injustice tooth and nail, if we persevere in the face of atrocities... if we remain committed to the ideals of justice liberation, and above all the sanctity of human dignity, we can ultimately prevail, no matter the odds stacked against us," he said.
Religious leaders opened the ceremony with various prayers before a portrait of Mandela surrounded by candles and flowers.
AU chief, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who served as Health Minister under Mandela, hailed him for unifying the continent in the face of racism.
"The unflinching pan-Africanness of Mandela and his peers across Africa inspired generations," said Dlamini-Zuma.
She dedicated an emotional goodbye to Mandela, referring to him as "Tata" and honoured his "commitment to African development and prosperity".
"Tata you have lived your life well, you have bequeathed us with a better world than the one into which you were born, you have now joined the galaxy of heroes, heroines, and the foundation of the pan-African movement," she said.