Despite a legacy of controversial foreign policy decisions, former US president Barack Obama is a good choice to deliver the Nelson Mandela memorial lecture, says the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF).
The foundation’s chief executive, Sello Hatang, said: “The board of the NMF has been really inspired in its choice every year so, for 16 years, they have been making the good choices and I think in this case again, it is the right choice, and we believe that … Obama will deliver a lecture that will inspire us to be servant leaders.”
Hatang acknowledged that Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama may have “flaws” in his legacy, but it was not unusual for great icons to have such flaws.
“I think in terms of his legacy, he has a lot to reckon with. So does Madiba. In our country, we still have a long way 9to go), in terms that we reckon with our past, including the contribution of Madiba to the education system that we have, towards building a much more inclusive economy that we have, so I think every legacy has flaws,” he argued.
Obama will be the seventh guest to give the lecture, which this year marks Madiba’s 100th birthday in July.
Stephanie Wolters, head of peace and security research at the Institute for Security Studies, said Obama’s legacy was no different from that of US presidents over the past few decades.
“Barack Obama’s foreign policy was no different than most American policy,” she said.
“There were huge expectations about him, because he had a Kenyan father, and in many ways he disappointed people.
“But he didn’t do anything different to any other US president and it’s probably not very accurate to say he was the first US president to bomb Africa.
“He is part of the Nato alliance and I don’t think by any means he was really taking a strong stance on Africa, there is a traditional alliance.
“There is not a special story, I guess, about Obama and Africa, except of course he is the first black president in America and that made him significant in a huge way, and he participated in Nelson Mandela’s funeral and if anything, for example, George Bush had a huge health programme in Africa in terms of HIV/Aids treatment and that was a flagship Africa programme,” she added.