Despite visiting Africa as part of a mission to emphasize the continent's potential as a business partner, President Obama has not had the opportunity to visit former South African leader Nelson Mandela. Mandela has been languishing in a coma for two weeks and reportedly, may pass away soon.
On the South African leg of his three-nation tour Obama has met with South Africa President Jacob Zuma, members of Mandela's family and on Sunday he paid tribute to Mandela by touring the prison on Robben Island, which detained the 96-year-old as a political prisoner for 27 years.
Via Al Jazeera:
Mandela's illness has placed Obama in a tricky political spot, forcing him to balance his desire to push for a new economic relationship with Africa, with the need to properly honour his hero as the world braces for his passing.
On Saturday, Obama and his wife Michelle phoned Mandela's wife Graca Machel.
"I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones," Obama said in a statement using the 94-year-old Mandela's clan name.
Machel said she drew "strength from the support" from the Obama family.
The example of Mandela, South Africa's first black president, drew Obama into politics for the first time in the 1970s, putting him on a path that would make his own piece of history as America's first black president.