News / Africa

    Obama Holds 'Town Hall,' Honors Mandela

    Obama, African Youth Discuss Opportunity, Securityi
    X
    June 30, 2013 12:28 AM
    Following a private meeting with relatives of ailing Nelson Mandela and talks with President Jacob Zuma, President Barack Obama engages young people from across Africa in a wide-ranging, televised question-and-answer session on opportunities and challenges on the continent. VOA senior White House correspondent Dan Robinson reports.
    U.S. President Barack Obama engaged young people from South Africa and three other African nations for more than an hour Saturday, taking questions on issues ranging from economic growth and job opportunity in Africa to countering extremism in a town-hall style meeting that followed talks earlier in the day with President Jacob Zuma.
     
    The condition of former South African leader Nelson Mandela was a key topic, and Obama praised the ailing anti-apartheid icon in emotional terms at both events on Saturday, saying Mandela's personal courage and South Africa's historic transition are a personal inspiration to him and to the world. The president will visit Robben Island in South Africa Sunday, the prison where Mandela spent nearly 20 years for fighting to overturn the country's apartheid regime.
     
    The president appeared at ease and energized for his exchange with the young people in his audience at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto.
     
    Africa is “on the move,” he said, but the continent faces great challenges “that can't be papered over." The president said Africa's young people will lead the way.
     
    "Even as too many Africans still endure tremendous hardship and great injustice, there is, as the song says, a new Africa — more prosperous, more confident — taking its place on the world stage," he said. "And one of the reasons is because of your generation."


     
    Paying tribute to heroes of the anti-apartheid movement including former president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Obama also recalled Hector Pieterson, a boy killed by police gunfire during a protest in 1976.
     
    “During my first visit to South Africa, I was able to go to Hector Pieterson's memorial and pay tribute to an African boy who moved the world," Obama said, adding that he was "humbled by the sacrifices of all who have gone before us, so we can stand here as free men and women.
     
    "I am honored to return to Soweto now as president of the United States of America."
     
    What followed was a wide-ranging question and answer session with young people gathered from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria on issues ranging from the need for accountable governments and jobs to climate change and threats from extremist groups.
     
    One Nigerian woman asked: “Considering how long the war on terror has been on for, would you say that we are winning the war on terror, seeing as how there are new terrorist groups developing in Africa. One of which is in Africa?"
     
    Obama said groups like Boko Haram are “doing great harm,” taking advantage of weak African governments, but that the United States is helping to build African governments' capacity to respond to extremism.
     
    “We want the African Union and other regional organizations to build up the capacity to send in peacekeepers, to be able to nip terrorist cells that may be forming before they start and gain strength," he said.
     
    Answering a question from Kenya, Obama said Africans are beginning to demand accountability from their governments.
     
    "You are starting to see more and more a norm, a standard, take hold in Africa," he said. "And young people, I think, especially have high expectations about how government should function, and it should function for the public good, not for the benefit of just a few."
     
    Zuma Talks

    U.S. President Barack Obama and South African President Jacob Zuma address a press conference following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, June 29, 2013.U.S. President Barack Obama and South African President Jacob Zuma address a press conference following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, June 29, 2013.
    x
    U.S. President Barack Obama and South African President Jacob Zuma address a press conference following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, June 29, 2013.
    U.S. President Barack Obama and South African President Jacob Zuma address a press conference following their meeting at Union Building in Pretoria, South Africa, June 29, 2013.
    Earlier in the day, President Obama and President Jacob Zuma discussed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the political situation in Zimbabwe and South Africa's progress in fighting HIV/AIDS.
     
    Zuma urged further relaxation of U.S. sanctions against Zimbabwe, and Obama said elections there scheduled for next month must be credible.
     
    Obama said the U.S. does not feel threatened by aggressive investment in Africa by China and other countries, but he urged Africans to carefully consider what they are getting from investment partners.
     
    Obama also praised South Africa's role in the African Union and regional mediation efforts, and shared his vision for enhanced U.S. economic engagement and trade with Africa.
     
    On the situation in Egypt, Obama said the U.S. is watching the situation there closely and ensuring its diplomats and facilities are protected. He called for restraint without violence.
     
    Meets with Mandela Family

    President Obama did not visit ailing former president Nelson Mandela in his hospital bed, instead meeting privately with Mandela's daughters and grandchildren. He also spoke by telephone with the 94-year-old leader's wife, Graca Machel.
     
    The president, his wife and their daughters fly on Sunday to Cape Town, where he will deliver a major speech expected to frame his goals of increasing investment and empowering the youth of Africa to take hold of their future.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: T Bennett from: USA
    June 29, 2013 7:01 PM
    How nice.

    Time for some town hall events by the president in the US, to explain what is giong on with the IRS, DOJ and Bengazi. Time for regular news conferences by our elected officals at all levels, including the executive.

    by: JeffCharles
    June 29, 2013 6:45 PM
    Yes leave your country with the heads of each citizen spinning in unanswered confusion. When you come back choke them to death with the constitution. For now leave every issue of importance unsolved in your own country and spend tax dollars on something you always wanted for you and your family. Don't worry, the American citizens will pay for your vacation as they have both of your terms. What do you care anyway? You will never be president again and are making enough money now to ever value what is right. Money is more important than values anyway. In fact, let's replace values with money. Whoever doesn't have money is nothing. Everyone who has values is a sucker.

    by: Amin from: Texas
    June 29, 2013 6:39 PM
    We used to all look up to Obama, now its jut Fleetwood Mac:
    Tell me lies
    Tell me sweet little lies
    Oh, no, no you can't disguise
    You can't disguise, no you can't disguise
    Tell me lies
    Tell me sweet little lies

    by: Jane from: Wa
    June 29, 2013 6:35 PM
    As president Obama praises the freedom fighters of Africa, does he realize that Fidel Castro was a great supporter of them, with training, nurses and doctors and fighters. I just learned of this recently and the high regard many Africans, including Nelson Mandela, had for Castro.

    by: tom frisby from: greenville, sc
    June 29, 2013 6:20 PM
    I am an independent Causasian who is very proud of our President and Michelle (I think one of the greatest first ladies ever). And I am pleased with his trip to Africa and the remarks made there. But, and this is totally in the left field, I wonder if President Obama would ever decide to live in an African country, along side the black community instead of in a white community. I see so many blacks who do not go back, who leave their culture. I do not see this among the Latinos or Asians so much. I wonder what your thoughts might be and if one of our journalist might explore this with either the President or Michelle. What school would he put his daughters in?

    by: docdakota
    June 29, 2013 6:07 PM
    A town hall meeting. What a great idea. Why not try a series of them in the homeland??

    by: geoff harris from: oakland ca
    June 29, 2013 5:48 PM
    Obama wouldve labeled Mandela a terrorist, a threat to the nations security. lets not be mystified by this nonsense, silly spectacle.

    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.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora