News / Africa

Obama Holds 'Town Hall,' Honors Mandela

Obama, African Youth Discuss Opportunity, Securityi
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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.
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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.

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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.

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