Soweto - US President Barack Obama told South Africa's
youth on Saturday that the future of the continent was in their hands, and
urged them to use Nelson Mandela as a model for political leadership.
Obama got a rowdy welcome as he used a town hall style
meeting in Soweto to announce a new fellowship, which will initially take 500
young African leaders to the United States every year for academic and
As Obama spoke, police nearby fired stun grenades to
disperse hundreds of people critical of his anti-terror policies.
The US leader, on the second leg of an African tour,
spoke at a University of Johannesburg not far from the homes in Soweto where
Mandela, now 94 and in a critical condition in hospital, spent several years of
"The future of this continent is in your
hands," Obama said.
He urged young people in Soweto and those watching the
town hall meeting in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda to take inspiration from
Mandela's refusal to be cowed by 27 years in jail.
"Think about 27 years in prison. Think about
hardships and the struggles and being away from family and friends," Obama
"There were dark moments that tested his faith in
humanity, but he refused to give up.
"In your lives there will be times to test your
Obama was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the crowd in
Soweto, who sang South African protest songs before he arrived and chanted his
"Yes We Can" campaign slogan when he took the stage.
However, protesters set fire to US flags and portraits of
Obama and at least three bangs from stun grenades were heard as armed police
tried to move demonstrators away from the university.
"The message is clear. We want him to honour the
promises he made when he became president, including things like the closing of
Guantanamo Bay," 30-year-old Firoz Osman told AFP.