U.S. President Barack Obama, right, listens to members of the Soweto Gospel Choir sing the National Anthem at the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, July 17, 2018. In his highest-profile speech since leaving office, Obama urged people around the world to respect human rights and other values under threat in an address marking the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's birth. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

South Africa Commemorates Mandela Centennial With Charity

July 18, 2018 - 2:29 am

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans along with former U.S. President Barack Obama were marking the centennial of Nelson Mandela's birth on Wednesday with acts of charity in a country still struggling with deep economic inequality 24 years after the end of white minority rule.

Obama was meeting with young people from around Africa to mark the anniversary, a day after he delivered a spirited speech in Johannesburg about Mandela's legacy of tolerance and criticized President Donald Trump and his policies without mentioning him by name. Obama received a standing ovation for his address, the highest-profile one since he left office.

"Most people think of Mandela as an older man with hair like mine," the 56-year-old Obama said to laughter from his young audience on Wednesday. But "he started as a very young man, at your age, trying to liberate this country."

He urged young African leaders to pursue change at home and emphasized the impact they can have as the continent's population is the fastest-growing in the world. "How big are your ambitions?" he asked.

Obama also spoke out against the corruption and conflict that slow down change, mentioning as one example the current deadly tensions in Cameroon, which faces an Anglophone separatist movement.

South Africans and others around the world were marking the July 18, 1918 birth of the anti-apartheid leader with clinic openings, blanket handouts and other charitable acts.

After 27 years in prison in South Africa, Mandela was released in 1990 and became the country's first black president four years later. He died in 2013 at the age of 95.

Events have been planned throughout the year for the 100th anniversary of Mandela's birth, including a large concert in December in South Africa that will be headlined by Beyonce and Jay-Z and hosted by Oprah Winfrey and others.

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