Barack Obama hails Nelson Mandela as an 'inspiration' during a speech in South Africa's capital

The President is on a week-long tour of Africa

President Barack Obama has said his country's thoughts are with Nelson Mandela, and hailed the Nobel peace laureate "an inspiration to the world".

The US leader was speaking during an address in Pretoria, South Africa, following talks with President Jacob Zuma.

During his speech, Mr Obama said: “The struggle here against apartheid [and] for freedom, Madiba's (Mr Mandela's) moral courage, this country's historic transition to a free and democratic nation, has been a personal inspiration to me.

"It has been an inspiration to the world, and it continues to be in so many regions that are divided by conflict, sectarian disputes, religious or ethnic wars, to see what happened in South Africa. The power of principle and people standing up for what's right I think continues to shine as a beacon.”

Mr Obama added: “The outpouring of love we have seen in recent days shows that the triumph of Nelson Mandela and this nation speaks to something very deep in the human spirit.

”The yearning for justice and dignity that transcends boundaries of race and class and faith and country, that's what Nelson Mandela represents, that's what South Africa at its best can represent to the world.“

A White House statement released earlier in the week said he and his wife Michelle would offer their thoughts and prayers at the family's difficult time during their week long trip to South Africa.

It read: "Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, they will not be visiting the hospital."

On Friday Obama said: "I don't need a photo op. The last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela's condition."

A photo of his 2005 meeting with Mr Mandela hangs in his personal office at the White House - their only meeting, when Mr Obama was a senator.

The 94-year-old national icon has been in hospital for three weeks with long-running lung problems.

The US president has said the imprisoned activist's willingness to risk his life for the cause of equal rights helped inspire his own political activism. He said his message during the visit will draw on the lessons of Mr Mandela's life, with a message that "Africa's rise will continue" if its people are unified instead of divided by tribe, race or religion.

"I think the main message we'll want to deliver, if not directly to him but to his family, is simply a profound gratitude for his leadership all these years and that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with him and his family and his country," Mr Obama said on his flight into the country.

The US leader will also pay tribute to the fight against apartheid by visiting the Soweto area and meeting students at the University of Johannesburg.

At least 176 young people were killed in Soweto township 27 years ago this month during a youth protest against the apartheid regime's ban against teaching local Bantu languages. The Soweto Uprising catalysed international support against apartheid, and June is now recognised as Youth Month in South Africa.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor