News / Africa

    Obama Plays Down Expectations of Mandela Visit

    This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012 (l) and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013.
    This two-picture combination of file photos shows Nelson Mandela on Aug. 8, 2012 (l) and President Barack Obama on May 31, 2013.
    Anita Powell
    U.S. President Barack Obama says he is uncertain whether he’ll meet ailing South African icon Nelson Mandela after he arrives in the country for a much-anticipated visit Friday.

    Speaking to reporters aboard the presidential plane Air Force One on Friday,Obama played down expectations of a visit with the 94-year-old Mandela.  

    "I don't need a photo op," said the president.  "The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive, at a time when the family is concerned with Nelson Mandela's condition."

    Mandela has spent several days in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital, prompting an outpouring of support - and overshadowing Obama’s visit.  He is doing better but remains critical, said his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, on Friday.

    The presidency and the family have been publicly reluctant to give any specific details about his medical status.  Mandela has been in critical condition since Sunday.

    “I am not here to answer any medical questions. I am not a doctor, but I can say from what he was a few days ago there is great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell," said Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

    Khusela Sangoni-Khawe, a spokeswoman for South Africa’s ruling party, said top party officials visited the hospital on Friday and found the same, though they only spoke to the family and doctors, as the doctors advised that Mandela’s condition was too dire for them to be able to see him in person.

    Like many South Africans, she referred to the 94-year-old icon by his clan name, Madiba.

    “And we received reports that indeed Comrade Mandela remains in a critical but stable condition.  We are calling on all South Africans to continue to pray for Madiba during this time. The ANC is filling out prayer meetings throughout the country, where we are going to be keeping President Mandela, his family and medical team in our thoughts," said Sangoni-Khawe.

    Mandela’s health is overshadowing the visit of another Nobel Peace Laureate who was also elected his nation’s first black president: U.S. President Barack Obama.

    A bevy of events are planned: several bilateral meetings, speeches, a state dinner, and a visit to Robben Island where Mandela spent decades in prison.  There are also protests against the visit - nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and members of South Africa's Communist party marched to the U.S. embassy in Pretoria Friday, where they denounced U.S. foreign policy.

    But missing from Obama’s official agenda is a visit to Mandela himself.

    The two men met in person once, in the United States, when Obama was a U.S. Senator. Presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said any visit this weekend would be decided by Mandela’s family.

    “Essentially, it is a matter that we do not regulate the visits to Madiba. Those are matters that are handled by the family. But I did see statements from the United States that they would not be pressing for that, they would be guided by the family and the health interests of Madiba. So that’s where the matter stands, and it depends, really, on circumstances," said Maharaj.

    Mandela’s daughter told the state broadcaster on Thursday that “anything is imminent” with regard to her father’s health.  He was admitted to the Pretoria hospital on June 8 for a lung infection.  On Sunday, he fell into critical condition, where he remains.

    • U.S. President Barack Obama heads a soccer ball at Ubungo Power Plant in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013. The ball called a "soccket ball" has internal electronics that allows it to generate and store electricity that can power small devices.
    • U.S. First lady Michelle Obama walks with Salma Kikwete, wife of Tanzania's president, during a departure ceremony in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama and former president George W. Bush (left) attend a memorial for the victims of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Dar es Salaam, July 2, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, and Tanzanian first lady Salma Kikwete wave as they arrive at State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
    • President Barack Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete walk in front of Michelle Obama and Salma Kikwete as they arrive at the State House in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
    • Young girls and women wear the khanga, a traditional wrap, with the image of U.S. President Barack Obama as they line up to greet him at the State House, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 1, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama writes in a guest book as he tours Robben Island with first lady Michelle Obama, near Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama departs the Robben Island prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment near Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama listens to Desmond Tutu as he visits his HIV Foundation Youth Center and takes part in a health event in Cape Town, June 30, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama greets participants at a town hall-style meeting with young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, June 29, 2013.
    • Members of the White House traveling staff walk to a group of helicopters about to transport U.S. President Barack Obama from a soccer field in Johannesburg, June 29, 2013.
    • Protesters argue with police outside the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, June 29, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama look out of a doorway that slaves departed from on Goree Island, Senegal, June 27, 2013.
    • U.S. President Barack Obama visits a food security expo in Dakar, Senegal, June 28, 2013.
    • People line the motorcade route of U.S. President Barack Obama on his way to meet with Senegalese President Macky Sall in Dakar, June 27, 2013.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Shadow from: USA
    June 28, 2013 1:26 PM
    After all 13 years of breaking down freedom....One of the world's most cherished international civil rights supporters....All I can see is Obama trying to avoid this man in such shame and dishonor he would dig a hole next to the first dog house.

    by: Gary from: Washington State
    June 28, 2013 12:59 PM
    The Mandela family needs to be left to the peace and quiet time they have left. Mr. Mandela has given enough to the world. The President needs not to make this an 'event' showing how humble he (Obama) can be....

    by: john s. from: usa
    June 28, 2013 11:23 AM
    What was the point of this trip? Obviously a vacation for the family at taxpayers expense. Obama and his entourage in another luxury package...... Meanwhile the country is enmeshed in scandals and we are a flop when it comes to international diplomacy. So much for the new era of diplomacy.....

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.