Obama ‘the perfect choice’

Barack Obama. File photo.
Barack Obama. File photo.
Image: Supplied

Former US president Barack Obama is the perfect choice to renew the Nelson Mandela legacy and promote active citizenry‚ the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) says.

Obama will deliver the 16th Nelson Mandela memorial lecture on Tuesday‚ marking 100 years since the birth of the anti-apartheid icon.

The foundation’s Luzuko Koti said Obama‚ with his global reach‚ was the ideal speaker to raise uncomfortable questions‚ provoke dialogue and draw attention to values that today were under threat.

“One of the things we are dealing with is captured democracies that don’t work for the poor‚ that don’t work for people in countries that are underdeveloped‚ where people are made to be rubber stampers of decisions that are made elsewhere,” he said.

“We want someone who is going to interrogate that.”

The address will be one of Obama’s highest-profile speeches since leaving office.

He is also expected to stimulate reflection.

Obama’s foreign policy has been heavily criticised, while at home, Mandela’s legacy has been questioned over settling for political power while failing to shift economic power to the people.

“Obama is not a perfect leader. His own legacy is as contested as that of Madiba,” Koti said.

“People question what he did‚ the decisions he took.

“We are a platform giving people the opportunity to interrogate these legacies‚ not to gloss over issues.

“That is why we wanted him to come here.”

However‚ Koti said it was important for the foundation to bring a person who was not only inspired by Madiba’s legacy personally but who had also modelled his own leadership after Madiba’s.

“Like Madiba‚ he is inspired by the issue of future leaders‚ emerging leadership‚ young people‚” he said.

During his visit‚ Obama will launch his foundation’s leadership programme‚ comprising 200 young Africans chosen from nearly 10‚000 applications from 44 countries across the continent.

Previous speakers include former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and Liberian leader Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

The lecture will take place at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium and is expected to be attended by 15‚000 people.

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