x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Obama 'humbled' by visit to Mandela's prison cell

Barack Obama says he is 'deeply humbled' by a visit to the cell where Nelson Mandela spent two thirds of his 27 years as a prisoner.

Barack Obama writes in a guest book as he tours Robben Island with first lady Michelle Obama.
Barack Obama writes in a guest book as he tours Robben Island with first lady Michelle Obama.

ROBBEN ISLAND, South Africa // Barack Obama said yesterday he was "deeply humbled" by a visit to the cell where Nelson Mandela spent years as a prisoner.

The United States president paid tribute to Mr Mandela, who is critically ill, and other anti-apartheid inmates of Robben Island, who "refused to yield" in the face of racist white minority rule.

Mr Obama, accompanied by his family, visited the bleak lime quarry where the 34 anti-apartheid leaders endured hours of back-breaking work.

He stood alone, looking out the barred window of the small damp cell where Mr Mandela spent two thirds of his 27 years in prison, the darkest days of his detention.

After touring the sandy, wind-swept island, Mr Obama took a few minutes to write a note in the visitors book. "On behalf of our family, we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield," he wrote.

"The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

Mr Mandela's continued hospitalisation has cast a pall over Mr Obama's much-awaited three-nation visit to Africa. The US leader planned to make Mr Mandela the keystone of an address at the University of Cape Town, citing his unifying legacy as a blueprint for a new generation in emerging Africa.