June 29, 2013

In South Africa, Obama pays tribute to ill Mandela

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Obama ascent to the White House has drawn inevitable comparisons to Mandela. Both are their nations' first black presidents, symbols of racial barrier breaking and winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Zuma said Obama and Mandela "both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed." Zuma said Mandela's condition remained the same as it had in recent days – critical yet stable – though he expressed hope that Mandela soon would leave the hospital.

Obama, Zuma and other dignitaries held a moment of silence for Mandela during a dinner Saturday night.

Also Saturday, Obama held a town hall with young people in Soweto, an area of Johannesburg that was a center of the youth-driven movement to fight against South Africa's apartheid government. At least 176 young people were killed there 27 years ago this month during a youth protest against the white government's ban against teaching local Bantu languages. The Soweto Uprising catalyzed international support against apartheid, and June is now recognized as Youth Month in South Africa.

Outside the event, protesters under police watch demonstrated outside the university against Obama's record on surveillance and foreign policy. Protesters from a range of trade unions and civil society groups chanted, "Away with intelligence, away," holding posters depicting Obama with an Adolf Hitler moustache.

In Africa, where some governments struggle with corruption, Obama has made it a priority to promote civic activism among young people and invest in their development. He hosted young leaders from more than 40 African countries at the White House in 2010 and announced plans during the event to expand the program.

About 600 youth leaders from South Africa attended the town hall, with other young people participating via video conference from Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland.

Kenya's current political environment made it impossible for Obama to visit the country where many of his relatives live. The International Criminal Court is prosecuting Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for crimes against humanity, including murder, deportation, rape, persecution and inhumane acts allegedly committed by his supporters in the aftermath of Kenya's 2007 elections.

"The timing was not right for me as the president of the United States to be visiting Kenya when those issues are still being worked on, and hopefully at some point resolved," said Obama, though he added that he planned to make many more trips to the East African nation.

The president planned to stop in Cape Town on Sunday and visit Robben Island, the prison where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in jail. Obama will close his trip with a visit to Tanzania.

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