The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

June 29, 2013

In South Africa, Obama pays tribute to ill Mandela

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Paying tribute to his personal hero, President Barack Obama met privately Saturday with Nelson Mandela's family as the world anxiously awaited news on the condition of the ailing 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader.

Obama, who has spoken movingly about Mandela throughout his trip to Africa, praised the former South African president's "moral courage" during remarks from the grand Union Buildings where Mandela was inaugurated as his nation's first black president.

Obama also called on the continent's leaders, including in neighboring Zimbabwe, to take stock of Mandela's willingness to put country before self and step down after one term despite his immense popularity.

"We as leaders occupy these spaces temporarily and we don't get so deluded that we think the fate of our country doesn't depend on how long we stay in office," Obama said during a news conference with South African President Jacob Zuma.

Obama's stop in South Africa marked the midway point of a weeklong trip to Africa, his most significant engagement with the continent since taking office in 2009.

His lack of personal attention on the region has frustrated some Africans who had high expectations for the first black American president and son of a Kenyan man.

Even with Mandela's health casting a shadow over his visit, Obama tried to keep focus on an agenda that includes deeper U.S. economic ties with Africa. The president dismissed suggestions that he was only investing personal capital on Africa's economy now as a response to the increased focus on the continent by China, India, Brazil and others.

"I want everybody playing in Africa," Obama said. "The more, the merrier."

But the president pointedly called on Africans to make sure that countries seeking an economic foothold on the continent are making a "good deal for Africa."

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