During a meeting with young African leaders on Monday, President Barack Obama had a rather awkward interaction where he was seemingly referred to as “the first president of United States of Africa.”
“Thank you Mr. President,” said a man from Senegal during a question-and-answer session. “President Obama is the first president of United States of Africa. I would like to know, can you share the two important issues you will discuss with the first president of United Nations of Africa.”
Obama appeared to be unsure how to answer the question.
“I’m sorry. I am the first African-American president of the United States,” Obama corrected, adding, “But I wasn’t sure.”
The young man clarified he meant to ask Obama to address a hypothetical scenario in which the various countries across the African continent unified and Obama had the opportunity to give advice to the new country’s leader.
“If Africa becomes United States of Africa. And you get the chance to meet the first president of the first United States of Africa,” he said. “It’s clear?”
Obama responded by saying he would tell the hypothetical African leader to protect civil rights and rule of law.
“Regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights. If you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process,” Obama said. “If you don’t have those basic mechanisms it is very rare for a country to succeed. I will go further than that: That country will not succeed over the long term.”
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