Former U.S. President, Barack Obama has urged the world to resist cynicism, over the rise of strongmen in an apparent reference to populist leaders who hold power in several countries.
Speaking in Johannesburg to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, Obama also warned of the dangers of fake news.
Obama’s remarks come a day after Trump’s much-criticised news conference in Helsinki, Finland, in which the US leader sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own country’s intelligence agencies on whether Russia interfered in the US elections in 2016.
“The politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear. And that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago,” he told the crowd of around 15,000 people in Johannesburg to honour Mandela ahead of the 100th anniversary of his birth.
In one of his highest-profile appearances and his first return to Africa since he left office in 2017, Obama criticised populist movements toward authoritarianism around the world and made a plea to his audience to preserve democratic freedoms as the key to peace.
“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts. Look around strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are (maintaining) the form of it, where those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning,” Obama said.
Obama, 56, has made an art of criticising the current President’s values without explicitly naming Trump, and he peppered his speech with warnings against protectionism and racial nationalism, CNN reported.
He also warned that the press was under attack, that censorship and state control of media is on the rise and that social media was being used to promote hate, propaganda and conspiracy theories.
“So, on Madiba’s 100 birthday, we now stand at a crossroads,” he said, using a clan name of affection for Mandela.
“It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists in both the United States and South Africa,” Obama, who became the first black American president in 2009, said.