Obama says he needs no “photo-op” with ailing Mandela

U.S. President, Barack Obama

Mr. Obama has left Senegal for South Africa.

The U.S. president, Barack Obama, has ruled out the likelihood of meeting with ailing South African anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, saying he does not need a “photo-op” with Mr. Mandela.

Mr. Obama who is on a visit to three countries in Africa including Tanzania, left Senegal for South Africa on Friday.

He paid tribute to the 94-year-old former leader who is clinging to life in a Pretoria hospital where he is being treated for recurring lung infection.

Mr. Mandela’s ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said on Friday that his condition had improved in the past few days, although he remained “clinically ill”.

But the U.S. president, who left Senegal for South Africa after a three-day visit, said the possibility of seeing Mr. Mandela will be known when he arrives in Johannesburg.

“I don’t need a photo op,” Mr. 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.”

White House has indicated any decision to visit Mandiba, as Mr. Mandela is affectionately known, will be decided by Mr. Mandela’s family.

“When we get there, we’ll gauge the situation,” Mr. Obama told reporters.

Mr. Obama, who is on his second visit to Africa, is however scheduled to visit Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela spent years in prison under South Africa’s former white minority regime. He will also deliver a speech at the University of Cape Town.

White House officials said Mr. Obama will hold a town hall meeting on Saturday with youth leaders in Soweto, the Johannesburg township known for 1976 student protests against apartheid, Reuters news agency reported.

He will discuss a new exchange program for African students with U.S. colleges and universities. The event will include youth from Nigeria, Uganda, and Kenya participating via video conference.

The event will be televised on Channels television.

Some South Africans have, however, protested Mr. Obama’s visit over the U.S. wars.

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

According to Reuters, Muslim activists held prayers in a car park outside the embassy. Their leader, Sayeed Mohammed, told the group, “We hope that Mandela feels better and that Obama can learn from him.”


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