As the world has been anxiously tuning in to updates on the condition of Nelson Mandela, President Obama has been singing his praises, and added on a check-in with the family to his itinerary in South Africa.
The President recently embarked on a weeklong visit to Africa to discuss U.S. economic ties with the continent.
His current tour in Africa is his longest since 2009. Knowing that he’s of Kenyan descent, many Africans are disappointed that he hasn’t been as engaged.
Today he stopped at the University of Johannesburg Soweto campus to take questions from young African leaders. In between that engagement and a town hall meeting, he met privately with two of Nelson Mandela’s daughters, several of his grandchildren, and also spoke with the former leader’s wife, Graça Machel, via phone while she was at her husband’s bedside. The anti-apartheid revolutionary is currently at the Pretoria hospital where he’s been receiving treatment for a lung infection over the past three weeks. Obama – who has only personally met Mandela once – abstained from visiting the former leader in the hospital out of respect for the family.
Many comparisons have been made between the two leaders. The two were both the first black presidents elected in their respective nations and Nobel Peace Prize winners. Current South African President Jacob Zuma expressed that Obama and Mandela “both carry the dreams of millions of people in Africa and in the diaspora who were previously oppressed.”
Recent reports indicate that Mandela is in stable condition.