In Africa on a goodwill mission Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama defended her husband against criticism that he isn't paying enough attention to the continent. The first lady said her weeklong trip is, actually, proof of the President's commitment to Africa, the Associated Press reported.
This trip is a reflection, a direct reflection, of his support and his interest and his view of the importance of Africa to the world and to the future of the world, she said. That's why I'm here.
Many had hoped that as Barack Obama is America's first black president, with ties to Kenya from his father, he would step up U.S. involvement on the continent during his presidency. Africans also longed for Obama to visit so they could welcome home a U.S. president they consider one of their sons.
The president stopped in Ghana in 2009, but only for 24 hours; he has not been back to Africa since.
But a lot of people expect a lot from the President, the first lady said, and some won't ever think that what he does is enough.
He would love to be here but there's a lot of work to do on the domestic front, she told four American reporters traveling with her. And as president it's hard to predict and plan internationally because you've got domestic stuff hitting you left and right.
Africa's absolutely important to him, she added. I understand why people feel like they want more. It's a big continent, a lot of challenges. But I think his record and the number of senior officials who've spent so much time in Africa ... that is a reflection of this administration's commitment to this continent.
White House officials have used the United States' involvement in Libya, Sudan and the Ivory Coast as examples of the president's commitment to the region, along with repeated visits by senior administration officials, such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mrs. Obama said she is her husband's direct representative and as such she was the one who met with Botswanan President Ian Khama on Friday. After 45 minutes behind closed doors, the two emerged and shook hands for the media. They made no remarks.