Obama’s night with Africa’s pres­i­dents

CityPress - - News - CARIEN DU PLESSIS carien.duplessis@city­press.co.za Du Plessis’ trip was partly paid for by the US em­bassy in Pre­to­ria

What did Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma say to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama as they dined on prime, grilled, dry-aged Wagyu beef, and were en­ter­tained by singer and song­writer Lionel Richie?

It isn’t clear, but they were spot­ted talk­ing on Tues­day night when Obama went up to Zuma and sec­ond wife Nom­pumelelo Ntuli’s ta­ble.

The din­ner was held in a mar­quee, lit in warm orange on the south lawn of the White House.

Zuma’s spokesper­son, Mac Ma­haraj, said jok­ingly he be­lieved “they were talk­ing about the weather”, but he did not at­tend the din­ner.

The in­for­mal one-on-one chat with Obama was im­por­tant be­cause there was no for­mal time dur­ing this week’s US-Africa Lead­ers’ Sum­mit in Wash­ing­ton, DC, for other bi­lat­eral meet­ings. Dur­ing the din­ner, it was Zuma’s for­mer wife, African Union Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who stole the lime­light.

She was the first to ar­rive – alone – on the red car­pet that was rolled out at the White House’s north en­trance. She also got one of the best seats at the din­ner – next to US First Lady Michelle Obama at the main ta­ble.

Among the guests who made an im­pres­sion on ar­rival were South Su­dan’s cow­boy hat-wear­ing pres­i­dent, Salva Kiir; Cameroon’s pres­i­dent, Paul Biya, and his wife, Chan­tal, sport­ing one of her leg­endary big hair­dos; and Rwanda’s pres­i­dent, Paul Kagame, with his stat­uesque daugh­ter Ange. It took 90 min­utes for guests to ar­rive and be greeted by US chief of pro­to­col Peter Sel­fridge, who wore a suit and had to mop his brow reg­u­larly in the muggy summer weather.

Richie (65) en­ter­tained guests all night long.

“Tonight, we are go­ing to have a party,” Richie re­port­edly said as he took to the stage.

He ac­com­pa­nied him­self on the piano and opened with the song Easy, per­form­ing hits like All Night Long, Hello and Say You (Say Me).

Rwanda’s for­eign min­is­ter, Louise Mushiki­wabo, tweeted: “At #USAfricaSum­mit, lead­ers sing­ing along with Lionel Richie at White House din­ner was a lot of fun!”

Also at the din­ner were In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions Min­is­ter Maite Nkoana-Masha­bane, who en­tered through a side en­trance with oth­ers who were not heads of state, and busi­ness­man Pa­trice Mot­sepe and his wife, Pre­cious Moloi-Mot­sepe.

Stan­dard Bank joint CEO Sim Tsha­bal­ala was also on the guest list, but it is not clear if he made it.

Ac­tors Chi­we­tel Ejio­for, star of the Academy Award-win­ning drama 12 Years a Slave, Robert De Niro and Meb Ke­flezighi, the Eritrean-born US win­ner of this year’s Bos­ton Marathon, were also in­vited.

The menu of­fered largely Amer­i­canstyle food with vegeta­bles from the White House gar­den. Hints of spices and dishes from a few African coun­tries were sprin­kled through­out.

The wine was from black Amer­i­can wine mak­ers. There was no sign of the South African Gra­ham Beck sparkling wine with which Obama marked his in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2009.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.