- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

President Obama called on African leaders Tuesday to strengthen their democracies, wrapping up a five-day trip that made him one of the most traveled presidents in U.S. history.

As the first president to address the 54-nation African Union, Mr. Obama chided African leaders who refused to leave office after their terms ended. He said he himself could win a third term in the U.S. but is looking forward to walking away from the White House.

“Under our Constitution, I cannot run again,” Mr. Obama told AU delegates in Ethiopia. “I actually think I’m a pretty good president. I think if I ran again, I could win. But I can’t. The law is the law. And no one person is above the law, not even the president.”

In a dig at the corruption that is rampant in many African nations, Mr. Obama said, “Nobody should be president for life. I don’t understand why people want to stay so long — especially when they’ve got a lot of money.”

The comment drew enthusiastic applause and cheers from the representatives of the 54-nation alliance.

Mr. Obama said that when a leader stays in office too long, “it risks instability in strife, as we’ve seen in Burundi.” He compared the late South African leader Nelson Mandela to George Washington, saying both men set examples by leaving office voluntarily and transferring power peacefully.

“I am in my second term. I love my work,” Mr. Obama said. “I’m still a pretty young man, but I know that somebody with new energy and new insights will be good for my country. I’ll be honest with you: I’m looking forward to life after being president.”

In his lengthy address, Mr. Obama also spoke of the need to combat terrorist groups in Africa such as Boko Haram and al-Shabab, and for democracies to empower women and girls.

Mr. Obama also said Ethiopia “cannot unleash the full potential of its people” if it imprisons journalists and restricts legitimate opposition groups.

The president’s trip also took him to Kenya, the birthplace of his father.

“I stand before you as a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of an African,” he told the African Union. “Africa and its people helped to shape America and allowed it to become the great nation that it is. And Africa and its people have helped shape who I am and how I see the world.”

He said the continent must encourage more trade and business investors to provide jobs for a rapidly growing new generation, to provide better opportunities and limit the lure of extremist groups such as Boko Haram and al-Shabab.

“Many of these groups claim the banner of religion, but hundreds of millions of African Muslims know that Islam means peace,” Mr. Obama said to applause. “And we must call groups like al Qaeda, ISIL, al-Shabab, Boko Haram — we must call them what they are: murderers.”

The trip was Mr. Obama’s 41st abroad as president, tying him with Bill Clinton for the most international trips at the same point in the seventh year of their presidencies, according to a study by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation.

Study author and policy analyst Michael Tasselmyer found that Mr. Clinton stayed overseas longer on those trips — 178 days, compared with 161 for Mr. Obama.

President George W. Bush took 38 international trips through the same point of his presidency, staying abroad for 157 days. Ronald Reagan had taken 21 international trips by this point of his presidency for a total of 101 days.

The trip to Africa cost taxpayers nearly $6 million in flight time alone for Air Force One, according to the study. Mr. Obama spent about 29 hours of flight time, and operating Air Force One costs $206,337 per flight hour, for a total of $5,983,773.

The total cost of the trip will easily reach into tens of millions of dollars. In the summer of 2013, Mr. Obama took his family on a weeklong trip to sub-Saharan Africa that was estimated to cost taxpayers $60 million to $100 million.

On that trip, the Secret Service’s hotel costs alone totaled $953,788, or about $136,255 per day.

The president was scheduled to return to Washington early Wednesday after a refueling stop in Germany.

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