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President Obama Addresses African Union In Ethiopia


President Obama addressed the African Union today in Ethiopia, the first U.S. president to speak to the continental body. He praised Africa's progress, but promised to keep pointing out lingering problems with human rights and democracy.


BARACK OBAMA: And I know that there are some countries that don't say anything and maybe that's easier to, you know, for leaders to deal with. But you're kind of stuck with us. This is how we are. We believe in these things. We're going to keep on talking about it.

BLOCK: This is Obama's fourth and final trip to Africa as president. And NPR's Gregory Warner reports that he's shifted the way he talks about these sensitive issues.

GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: President Obama came to an Africa different than the one he first visited in 2009, an Africa buoyed by Chinese money and rising economies and less accommodating to lectures from the West. Human rights groups have even been chased out of some countries or accused of being foreign agents for Western powers. While in 2009, on his first trip to Africa, Obama denounced presidents for life with the line Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men. Today, he entered the touchy subject in a friendlier style - imagining if he sought a third term.


OBAMA: I actually think I'm a pretty good president. I think if I ran I could win.


OBAMA: But I can't.

WARNER: But Elizabeth Ohene, a retired journalist and ex-government minister in Ghana, says that President Obama understood something about his African audience - that Africans are ashamed, that many African countries are still dealing with these problems.

ELIZABETH OHENE: It’s something that I think many Africans are embarrassed about. That at this time of our lives, the question of people wanting to stay on in power, should still be something that we are dealing with.

WARNER: She thinks President Obama tread softly, not to make nice with authorities, but out of respect for his audience's autonomy. He spoke, she says, like he understood us. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Nairobi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Gregory Warner is the host of NPR's Rough Translation, a podcast about how things we're talking about in the United States are being talked about in some other part of the world. Whether interviewing a Ukrainian debunker of Russian fake news, a Japanese apology broker navigating different cultural meanings of the word "sorry," or a German dating coach helping a Syrian refugee find love, Warner's storytelling approach takes us out of our echo chambers and leads us to question the way we talk about the world. Rough Translation has received the Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club and a Scripps Howard Award.