Thousands cheer Barack Obama ahead of his Nelson Mandela lecture

Thousands cheer Barack Obama ahead of his Nelson Mandela lecture

"It sends a message that when you have been given a privilege to serve, if you do things that are untoward, no matter what position you serve in, you are no higher than the law", said Lumumba.

Obama's speech followed remarks by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Mandela's widow, Graça Machel, formerly a freedom fighter and minister in Mozambique's government.

His speech came one day after Trump declined to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite the assessment of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election by hacking computer systems and using other tactics.

Former President Barack Obama offered a sobering and alarming view of the state of the world in what appeared to be a rebuke of President Donald Trump, warning that nationalist and populist sentiments are making their way into the mainstream.

Obama's barbs were the first he has aimed at Trump since leaving the White House in January 2017.

There were around 16 thousand people at Wanderers Stadium for the event.

It was the second major speech from Obama in South Africa in two days after a previous stop-off in Kenya.

He targeted politicians pushing "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment", saying they are on the move "at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago". "Who would be able to deal with issues of democracy in a world ripped apart by corruption?' We needed an African person".

"Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, people now are talking about the triumph of tribalism and the strong man".

Barack Obama
Obama to make rare high-profile speech on Mandela's legacy

"Populist movements, cynically funded by right-wing billionaires anxious about their own interests", Obama said. "I wish I had big pockets‚ because I love each and every one of you‚ and I'd like to fit you in my pocket and return with you to South Africa".

Last year, Obama told a large crowd near the Brandenburg Gate in Germany that in a modern, interconnected world, "we can't isolate ourselves".

"We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders who are caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more".

Obama pointed out that he was standing at this podium, more than a quarter century after Mandela walked out of prison, to say that "we are all human. Should we see that hope that we had as naïve and misguided?" he asked.

His birthday on July 18 is marked annually around the world as "Mandela Day", and the Nelson Mandela Foundation called for people to "take action and inspire change" in his name on the centenary year.

The first was former president Bill Clinton who gave the inaugural annual lecture.

When Obama was a US senator he had his picture taken with the newly freed Mandela. Mandela died aged 95 on December 5 2013.

"It's tempting right now to give into cynicism to believe that recent shifts in global politics are too powerful to push back", he said.

Imprisoned for almost three decades for his fight against state-sanctioned racial segregation, he was freed in 1990 and quickly set about working to unite the nation through forgiveness and reconciliation, becoming South Africa's first black president.

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