At Mandela Event, Obama Warns Against ‘Rise of Strongman Politics’

The speech was among the most pointed comments that Obama has made about politics since leaving office in Jan 2017.

Updated18 Jul 2018, 05:45 PM IST
2 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

Barack Obama on Tuesday, 17 July said the world should resist cynicism over the rise of strongmen, in an apparent reference to populist leaders who hold power in a number of countries.

The Democratic former US president did not name his Republican successor, Donald Trump, but the speech was among the most pointed comments he has made about politics since leaving office in January 2017.

“Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, people now are talking about the triumph of tribalism and the strong man. But we need to resist that cynicism,” Obama said in a speech in Johannesburg to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

Obama Echoes Trump’s Critics

Some of Obama’s language echoed that of Trump's critics.

“Too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. We see it in the growth of state-sponsored propaganda, we see it in internet-driven fabrications, in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment,” Obama said.

“We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders, where they are caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more,” he said.

Obama said there were far-right parties in the West that have platforms of protectionism and closed borders but also a “barely hidden racial nationalism”.

Since leaving the White House, Obama has largely avoided direct involvement in US politics and has refrained from criticising Trump.

On Monday, Trump sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, casting doubt on the findings of his own US intelligence agencies and sparking a storm of criticism at home.

‘Believed in Vision of Mandela, Gandhi’

During his speech, given in a stadium to thousands of politicians, business people and students, Obama lauded Mandela's life of sacrifice and commitment to social justice.

Obama also spoke about the influence of Mahatma Gandhi on his life.

Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision, I believe in a vision shared by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King, and Abraham Lincoln, I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on a pretense that all people are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.
Barack Obama, Former US President

(With inputs from PTI and Reuters.)

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Published: 17 Jul 2018, 11:00 PM IST

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