Michelle Obama To Honor Nelson Mandela

mandelaMichelle?Obama will honor the legacy of Nelson Mandela and the struggle against apartheid during an official visit to southern Africa next week.

For her second solo international trip, the first lady has scheduled stops in South Africa and Botswana, two growing democracies, where she’ll continue her work encouraging young people to get involved in national affairs. She’ll also promote education, health and wellness.

The previously announced June 20-26 trip begins Monday in Johannesburg. Mrs. Obama will also stop in Pretoria and Cape Town in South Africa before moving on to Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. The trip ends with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the return to Washington on June 27.

She will be accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson.

White House officials said Wednesday that the trip will help advance the administration’s agenda in Africa.

Mrs. Obama will spend most of her time in South Africa. She is scheduled to meet with Mandela’s wife, Graca Machel, tour the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where his papers are stored, and visit the Apartheid Museum, which tells the story of the rise and fall of the now-abolished system of white-minority rule.

The first lady also plans a ferry ride to Robben Island, where Mandela spent 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned for fighting apartheid.

Mrs. Obama will also meet with Nompumelelo Ntuli-Zuma, the wife of South African President Jacob Zuma, and with Botswana’s president, Ian Khama.

Mandela was released from prison in February 1990 and was elected the country’s first black president in 1994 after apartheid ended. He left office in 1999 after one term and remains an outsized figure in South Africa although he has retired from public life.

A meeting between Mrs. Obama and Mandela was not on the agenda the White House released Wednesday and officials said one would largely depend on the state of his fragile health. The former president, who is 92, suffered an acute respiratory infection in late January that sent him to the hospital for 48 hours.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy White House national security adviser, said Mrs. Obama would “treasure any opportunity” to interact with Mandela.

Mrs. Obama’s schedule also includes a meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and key figure in the struggle against apartheid.

Source: The Associated Press.