16:44 GMT +320 October 2018
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    Former U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture, marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader's birth, in Johannesburg

    Obama Calls for Resisting Rise of Strongmen in Mandela Address

    © REUTERS / Siphiwe Sibeko
    Africa
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    2010

    President Barack Obama made a rare public appearance to deliver a speech in South Africa, marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. The speech did not go unnoticed on Twitter with social media users praising Obama’s words.

    The former US president called today’s times “strange and uncertain” during his speech in South Africa, slamming "strong man" politics and the rejection of intellectualism that he feels is present in today's political culture.

    These days "we see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business," Obama said.

    He targeted politicians pushing "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment," saying they are on the move "at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago."

    "Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, people now are talking about the triumph of tribalism and the strong man. But we need to resist that cynicism," Obama said in his speech.

    "Strong man politics are ascendant suddenly," Obama said. "Whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning."

    He called on people around the world to respect human rights and keep alive the ideas that Nelson Mandela worked for such as democracy, diversity and tolerance.

    Obama urged people to reject xenophobia and "rabid nationalism," warning that history has demonstrated that countries that follow "doctrines of religious or racial superiority" eventually find themselves "consumed by civil or external war."

    In addition to warning against dangers of nationalism, the former president raised concern over rejection of objective truth among leaders.

    "You have to believe in facts. Without facts, there's no basis for cooperation," Obama said. "Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up."

    He concluded his speech by calling on young people to stay active in politics and have faith in democracy.

    His speech was cheered by a crowd of about 14,000 people gathered at a cricket stadium in Johannesburg.

    This was Obama's first visit to Africa since leaving office in early 2017. Earlier he visited Kenya, the birthplace of his late father.

    His speech generated much debate on Twitter.

    — Zinhle ♡ (@zinhle_nkwali) July 17, 2018

    — Victor Mochere (@VictorMochere) July 17, 2018

    — Scott Santens (@scottsantens) July 17, 2018

    Some users however, pointed out that the former president despite preaching peace and democracy was the head of state when US was waging war in Libya.

    — Distant Relative (@LankyObserver) July 17, 2018

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    Tags:
    nationalism, democracy, human rights, speech, Barack Obama, Africa
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