FORMER US President Barack Obama delivered a speech to mark the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela today, despite widespread calls for the invitation to be withdrawn.
Mr Obama addressed crowds in Johannesburg today as they gathered to celebrate the life of the revolutionary leader who died in December 2013.
However activists had applied pressure on the Nelson Mandela Foundation to cancel the invitation, saying Mr Obama does not represent the anti-apartheid hero’s legacy.
In an open letter earlier this year the Cage Africa advocacy group said Mr Obama was responsible during his time as US president for the expansion of military operations across Africa including drone attacks and the dismantling of Libya.
"Giving this man a platform would be tantamount to condoning these actions, something that Nelson Mandela would surely have stood against.
"This is especially pertinent given Nelson Mandela's legacy as an individual who was also once designated a 'terrorist' and suffered torture and imprisonment as a result, and who despite this is now regarded as one of the pre-eminent figureheads for justice around the world,” the letter read.
Speaking to Al Jazeera yesterday, US philosopher Cornel West said Mr Obama “was never the revolutionary Nelson Mandela was,” calling him the “face of the American empire.”
“He was always a neoliberal politician,” the intellectual continued, stressing the importance of holding Mr Obama’s politics to account.
Mr West said: “He has, in my view, committed war crimes with his drones in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia and Libya,” saying he stood in solidarity with the protesters.
“Now, the last thing you want to do is act as if Barack Obama is some kind of grand progressive figure. No, he was a neoliberal counterfeit,” he added.
Around 9,000 people attended the Johannesburg speech in which Mr Obama said more action was needed to fulfil Mr Mandela’s vision for the future.
"It turns out, as we are seeing in this recent drift into reactionary politics, the struggle for basic justice is never truly finished," he told the crowds.
In a perceived condemnation of US President Donald Trump he said there can be no excuse for immigration policies based on race, religion or ethnicity.
Mr Obama concluded with the words of Mr Mandela, saying: "No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.”
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa received a warm response from the crowds.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by joining the 501 club.
Just £5 a month gives you the opportunity to win one of 17 prizes, from £25 to the £501 jackpot.
By becoming a 501 Club member you are helping the Morning Star cover its printing, distribution and staff costs — help keep our paper thriving by joining!
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by become a member of the People’s Printing Press Society.
The Morning Star is a readers’ co-operative, which means you can become an owner of the paper too by buying shares in the society.
Shares are £1 each — though unlike capitalist firms, each shareholder has an equal say. Money from shares contributes directly to keep our paper thriving.
Some union branches have taken out shares of over £500 and individuals over £100.
You can’t buy a revolution, but you can help the only daily paper in Britain that’s fighting for one by donating to the Fighting Fund.
The Morning Star is unique, as a lone socialist voice in a sea of corporate media. We offer a platform for those who would otherwise never be listened to, coverage of stories that would otherwise be buried.
The rich don’t like us, and they don’t advertise with us, so we rely on you, our readers and friends. With a regular donation to our monthly Fighting Fund, we can continue to thumb our noses at the fat cats and tell truth to power.
Donate today and make a regular contribution.