African leaders meeting in Paris for a summit Friday are holding a moment of silence to mark the passing of Nelson Mandela, a leader who inspired many of them.

Mandela died Thursday, just as leaders from nearly every country in Africa were gathering for a summit on how Africans could take a more active role in bringing peace and security to the troubled continent. It was a cause that was dear to Mandela, who was often involved in brokering peace deals in African conflicts.

"He is comparable to a great baobab — this invincible tree under which everyone shelters," said Guinee President Alpha Conde. "And when this baobab falls, we find ourselves exposed."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.