, DAR ES SALAAM, Jul 1 – US President Barack Obama arrived in Tanzania on Monday after paying homage in South Africa to his ailing idol Nelson Mandela, for the final leg of his three-nation Africa tour.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete welcomed Obama and his family to the country’s economic capital and port Dar es Salaam, as troupes of traditional dancers clapped and sang.
A guard of honour fired a 21-gun salute, as women wearing colourful dresses emblazoned with Obama’s portrait danced.
Excited Tanzanians began gathering since early morning to secure a spot to see Obama, with the city’s streets decked out in alternating Tanzanian and US flags.
“In Africa we have so many countries, so Obama choosing to come to Tanzania, it makes us feel happy,” said Francis Gedyman, 26, a driver.
“I think maybe he came to Tanzania because we don’t have so much corruption, or war. Here we have peace, and democracy.”
A key road – separating Tanzania’s presidential palace from the glittering blue water of the Indian Ocean – is to be renamed after Obama.
In Tanzania, Obama’s final stop on the tour which has included Senegal and South Africa, he will hold talks with Kikwete and visit the Ubungo power plant, after unveiling a new $7-billion programme to boost African electric power networks.
He will also lay a wreath at a memorial to those killed in the US embassy bombing in 1998. His wife Michelle will take part in a First Ladies forum hosted by her predecessor in the role, Laura Bush.
He arrives in Tanzania just three months after a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, amid talk of an economic rivalry in Africa between Washington and Beijing.
But his tour has been also overshadowed by the health of his hero Mandela, who has entered a fourth week in hospital where he remains critically ill.
Obama did not see Mandela, but he spent the weekend visiting sites from the revered leader’s life, including the Robben Island prison where the anti-apartheid icon spent 18 years – a visit Obama said left him “deeply humbled”.
Obama stood in the tiny cell once occupied by Mandela on the windswept outcrop near Cape Town, and took his daughters to the lime quarry where the man who would become South Africa’s first black president did back-breaking hard labour.
“Mandela’s spirit could never be imprisoned – for his legacy is here for all to see,” Obama said in a speech at the University of Cape Town afterwards.