President Barack Obama praised the legacy of the ailing Nelson Mandela Friday but could not say whether he would try to visit the iconic figure during a pre-planned visit to South Africa.
“Right now, our main concern is with his well-being, his comfort, and with the family’s well-being and comfort,” Obama said aboard Air Force One as he flew from Senegal to South Africa, part of a week-long trip to Africa planned before the former South African leader was hospitalized in critical condition.
Obama did not give any updates on Mandela’s failing health or whether he planned to personally visit the former president of South Africa. He said he wanted to pass along a message of gratitude either to Mandela himself or to his family, but that he did not want to be obtrusive.
“If we focus on what Africa as a continent can do together and what these countries can do when they’re unified, as opposed to when they’re divided by tribe or race or religion, then Africa’s rise will continue,” Obama said. “And that’s one of the central lessons of what Nelson Mandela accomplished not just as president, but in the struggle to overcome Apartheid and his years in prison.”
Kumar reported from South Africa; Kirby from Washington