First Lady to honour Madiba

2011-06-16 08:39

US First Lady Michelle Obama is expected to honour the legacy of president Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid during her official visit to southern Africa next week.

For her second solo international trip, Obama has scheduled stops in South Africa and neighbouring Botswana – two growing democracies.

She is set to continue her work encouraging young people to get involved in national affairs. She will also promote education, health and wellness.

The previously announced June 20-26 trip begins on Monday in Johannesburg.

Obama will also stop in Pretoria and in Cape Town before flying to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.

Her trip ends with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before she returns to Washington on June 27.

She will be accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, her mother Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson.

White House officials said yesterday that her trip will help advance the President Barack Obama administration’s agenda in Africa.

Obama will spend most of her time in South Africa.

She is scheduled to meet with Mandela’s wife, Graça Machel, tour the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where his papers are stored, and visit the Apartheid Museum, which tells the story of the rise and fall of the now-abolished system of white-minority rule.

The First Lady also plans a ferry ride to Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years for fighting apartheid.

Obama also will meet with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, the wife of President Jacob Zuma, and with Botswana’s president, Ian Khama.

Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison on 11 February 1990 and was elected South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after apartheid ended.

He left office in 1999 after one term and remains an outsized figure in South Africa although he has retired from public life.

A meeting between Obama and Mandela was not on the agenda, the White House released yesterday.

The former president, who is now 92, suffered an acute respiratory infection in late January.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security advisor, said Obama would “treasure any opportunity” to interact with Mandela.

Obama’s schedule also includes a meeting with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a key figure in the struggle against apartheid.

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