JOHANNESBURG: Former US President Barack Obama condemn “strongman politics,” including attacks on the press, freedom of speech saying that “those in power seek to undermine every institution … that gives democracy meaning.”
In an impassioned address at Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at a cricket stadium in Johannesburg, Obama said, “Democracy depends on strong institutions and it’s about minority rights, checks and balances, freedom of speech, freedom of express and a free press.”
Without explicitly ever mentioning or naming any politicians, Obama, in his highest-profile speech said that the politics of “fear and resentment and retrenchment” is “now on the move.”
“It’s on a move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. I am not being alarmist I am simply stating the facts,” adding that “strongmen politics” are suddenly ascending.
“The free press is under attack, censorship and state control of media is the rise, social media once seen as as mechanisms to promote knowledge and understanding and solidarity proved to be just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories,” he added.
Obama suggested that:
“Too much of the politics of today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth… People just make stuff up!” he exclaimed, “there is an utter loss of shame among political leaders when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more.”
The former President has made relatively few public appearances since leaving the White House in 2017, but he has often credited Mandela for being one of the great inspirations in his life.
Obama also invokes Mahatma Gandhi. “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 multiracial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal.”
He received a standing ovation and thunderous applause from thousands of guests.