CAPE TOWN – U.S. President Barack Obama warned Sunday that Africa could only fulfill its rising potential through leaders who strive to improve the lives of their people, decrying “thugs and warlords” holding back the promise of the continent.
In a strident call for democratic change and good governance, Obama used the political legacy of ailing Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s emergence from the desperate years of apartheid as proof that freedom will ultimately prevail.
“History shows us that progress is only possible where governments exist to serve their people and not the other way around,” said Obama, drawing loud and prolonged cheers from his audience of more than 1,000 people.
South Africa has made massive strides in delivering electricity, housing and water to black citizens since the fall of apartheid in 1994. But the progress has failed to dent anger over rampant poverty and joblessness, with 1 in 4 workers unemployed.
The speech was delivered from the same spot where Sen. Robert Kennedy delivered his iconic “ripple of hope” speech in 1966, calling on students to decry the “racial inequality of apartheid.”