'Politics of fear': Obama rebukes Trump in Mandela address


The Johannesburg platform was carefully chosen to evoke the memory of Mr. Mandela, the South African liberation hero who had inspired Mr. Obama's first act of political activism: his decision as a young college student to join the anti-apartheid movement.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (L) and former US President Barack Obama (R) share a light moment at the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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Obama said that it was "surprising" to him that he had to reaffirm to the audience that "we are all human, our differences are all superficial and that we should treat each other with care and respect". "I thought that basic notion was well-established, turns out in this recent drift in reactionary politics, the struggle for basic justice is never truly finished".

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The former president added: "I am not being alarmist, I am simply stating the facts".

In another notable passage, Obama appeared to endorse a universal basic income, saying, "It's not just money that a job provides". He warned that countries that engage in xenophobia "eventually. find themselves consumed by civil war".

And he drew laughter from the crowd with the line: "Politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth - people just make stuff up".

"Just, you know, not handling our business".

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Obama emphasised that globalisation was not going to go away, but - in a thinly veiled dig at current United States President Donald Trump - the only manner in which to address issues such as climate change and migration was through more worldwide cooperation than less. "So we have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades in global conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away".

Obama, drawing on Mandela's own remarks, counseled against discrimination of any kind. "Just by standing on the stage honoring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump", said John Stremlau, professor of worldwide relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, who called the timing auspicious as the commitments that defined Mandela's life are "under assault" in the USA and elsewhere.

"Madiba shows that those who believe in democracy and economic equality will have to fight harder", Obama said.

With a thinly veiled reference to his successor Donald Trump, Obama opened by remarking on the "strange and uncertain times we are in...and they are very odd". "We've been through lower valleys", and he closed with a call to action: "I say if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love".

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"Keep believing. Keep marching".