What to Look for as Obama Tours Africa

Nelson Mandela reportedly on life support

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jun 27, 2013 7:10 AM CDT | Updated Jun 27, 2013 7:57 AM CDT

(Newser) – President Obama has arrived in Senegal, the first of three countries he'll visit during his African tour—the other two being Tanzania and South Africa, the Wall Street Journal reports. His trip comes at a heavy moment for South Africa, the New York Times notes, with Nelson Mandela said to be in critical condition. While many welcomed the Obamas to Senegal as they met with President Macky Sall and his wife, Marieme Faye Sall, some were less than thrilled: Newspaper headlines read, "Obama is stifling us," and "The Americans take over Senegal."

A preview of Obama's plans:

  • The president's visit to Senegal celebrates the country's successful democracy, which recently saw an incumbent president voted out as he tried to change the rules in order to stay. Obama is expected to hold up Senegal as an example for other countries, the AP notes.
  • Obama will tour Senegal's Gorée Island, which has a dark history of ties to slavery: Some say millions were shipped from the site into bondage. In another island visit, Obama will see Robben Island in South Africa, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.
  • Everywhere, Mandela's influence looms large: Mandela is "a hero for the world. His legacy will linger on through the ages," Obama said at a press conference today, as per the AP. Obama may meet with Mandela, but the decision is up to the Mandela family, an adviser says.
  • Meanwhile, the former South African president is on life support, a relative tells Fox News, and his family has reportedly been called to his side. From his daughter, per Reuters: "I won't lie, it doesn't look good. But as I say, if we speak to him, he responds and tries to open his eyes. He's still there. He might be waning off, but he's still there." Current president Jacob Zuma yesterday canceled a planned trip to Mozambique over Mandela's health, the Times notes.

A member of the honor guard adjusts another's collar as they prepare for the arrival of President Barack Obama at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
President Barack Obama is greeted Senegalese First Lady Mariame Faye Sall, right, as Michelle Obama, left, is welcomed by Senegalese President Macky Sall at the presidential palace in Dakar.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Michelle Obama and Mariame Faye Sall, first lady of Senegal, visit in the Presidential Palace, Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Dakar, Senegal.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A banner showing President Barack Obama and Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall hangs at the airport in Dakar, Senegal, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
President Barack Obama is welcomed by a Senegalese honor guard as he arrives at the presidential palace in Dakar, Senegal, Thursday, June 27, 2013.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
People line the motorcade route of U.S. President Barack Obama on his way to meet with Senegalese President Macky Sall at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, June 27, 2013, in Dakar, Senegal.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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