Obama pays tribute to ailing Mandela

Obama pays tribute to ailing Mandela

Obama pays tribute to ailing Mandela

US President Barack Obama paid tribute to anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela as he flew to South Africa on Friday but played down expectations of a meeting with the ailing black leader during an Africa tour promoting democracy and food security.

White House officials hope Obama’s three-nation tour of Africa — his first substantial visit to the continent since taking office in 2009 — will compensate for what some view as years of neglect by America’s first black president.

The health of Mandela, the 94-year-old former South African president clinging to life in a Pretoria hospital, dominated Obama’s day even before he arrived in Johannesburg.

“I don’t need a photo op,” Obama told reporters aboard Air Force One after leaving Senegal. “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’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said his condition had improved in the past few days.

Nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and South African Communist Party members marched through the capital to the US Embassy, where they burned an American flag and called Obama’s foreign policy “arrogant and oppressive.”

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