Former US President Barack Obama said that late former President Nelson Mandela had the wisdom to step down when his term came to an end. Picture: Siphelele Dludla / ANA

Johannesburg - Former Unites States of America President Barack Obama on Tuesday said that late former President Nelson Mandela had the wisdom to step down from the presidency when his term came to an end unlike some presidents who hold on to power even when the electorate want them out of office. 

Delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the 15 000 packed Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg, Obama reflected on the historical context in which Mandela grew up and what formed a boy from rural South Africa to help shape global politics and foster peace around the world. 

"[Mandela] came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world with hopes for a better life, and the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs. He fought the fight to end apartheid. Through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and most of all through his moral example. Mandela and the movement he led would come to embody universal aspirations," Obama said.

"It is hard to overstate the transformation that has taken place since that time. It was in service of this long walk towards freedom and justice and equal opportunity that Nelson Mandela devoted his life. And now an entire generation has now grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer, healthier, wealthier, less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes. It should make us hopeful."

Obama also said that despite the progress that has been made globally in the last few decades, the world also had to recognise all the ways the international order has fallen short.

 "The world is facing strange and uncertain times and is at times like these that the example of  Nelson Mandela is so important," Obama said. 

He said there is still suffering from gender discrimination at workplaces the world over, and that racial inequality was still as bad as it was 100 years ago. 

"It is a plain fact that racial inequality still exists, in the United States and in South Africa. Women are still deprived of their possibilities. They are still paid less than men for the same work. Women and girls around the world continue to be blocked from positions of power and responsibility. Women are disproportionately victimised by violence and abuse. For many people, the more things change the more they stay the same," Obama said. 

Obama said that Mandela's legacy also teaches the world that everyone is bound by a common humanity, and that everyone has the responsibility to uplift and pull up less privileged people in their own communities. 

"He came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world with hopes for a better life, and the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs."

African News Agency (ANA)