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Former U.S. Pres. Obama condemns “politics of fear’


Former U.S. President, Barak Obama (3L) poses for a picture with his step-grandmother Sarah (C) and half-sister, Auma (2R) and some of the local youth on July 16, during the opening of the Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, founded by his half-sister, Auma Obama at Kogelo in Siaya county, western Kenya. - Obama is in the east African nation for the first time since he left the U.S. presidency and met with President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga in Nairobi. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA / AFP) (Photo credit should read TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images)

JOHANNESBURG - During his keynote address before approximately 15,000 people at the Nelson Mandela lecture in South Africa, former U.S. President Barack Obama said politicians using “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment” are rising “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago.”

Obama’s speech coincides with events to mark 100 years since the birth of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 aged 95.

Both men were the first Black presidents of their countries.

Obama has said he was “one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life.”

Mandela led the fight against White minority rule in South Africa. He was imprisoned for 27 years before he became the country's first democratically elected president in 1994.

As a student, Obama called the fight against apartheid “a struggle that touches each and every one of us,” and encouraged his university to drop its investments in South Africa.

While in South Africa, Obama met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa. He also took part in a town hall with 200 new leaders of the Obama Foundation in Africa. It is estimated that 15,000 people attended this year's Nelson Mandela lecture.

“We thought to ourselves: ‘Who can best represent the legacy of Madiba?’” said Nelson Mandela Foundation head Sello Hatang when announcing Obama as this year’s choice.

He added: “Who took the baton when he became president of his own country? Who would be able to deal with issues of democracy in a world ripped apart by corruption? We needed an African person.”

Since its beginning in 2003, global leaders have used the Mandela lecture to speak about issues affecting South Africa, the continent and the world.

Previous speakers at the event include U.S. entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates, French economist Prof Thomas Piketty, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Kenyan Nobel laureate and political activist Wangari Maathai, ex-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Obama’s visit to Kenya was his first trip to the East African country since leaving office. This is the fifth time that Obama has visited Kenya, his late father's homeland. While in Nairobi, Obama met with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga. On Monday, he inaugurated the Sauti Kuu Foundation, a sports and vocational training center and foundation founded by his half-sister, Auma Obama, in the small western Kenyan town of Kogelo (Siaya County).

“Given that his own mission under the Obama Foundation is to inspire and empower people to change the world, his attendance at this event at our ancestral home, where our father was laid to rest, is of great significance to me,” Auma Obama said.

The center in Siaya County will provide educational and economic opportunities to help young people serve their communities and shares a similar mission to his Obama Foundation.

Auma Obama attended her brother’s 2009 inauguration and was a big part of his 2015 visit to Kenya. Obama’s sister is a graduate of Heidelberg University (Germany) and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Bayreuth (Germany). She also studied at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin. Dr Auma Obama worked for five years with the international charity organization, CARE International, before starting her own charity, Sauti Kuu Foundation (Strong Voices Foundation).