Barack Obama says 'bullying' men have been 'getting on my nerves' as he urges more women to enter politics

Tom Embury-Dennis

Barack Obama is urging more women to get involved in political and social movements because “men have been getting on my nerves”.

In front of an audience of young professionals in Johannesburg on Wednesday, the former US president offered advice on how to approach public office in a continent often riddled with corruption.

Responding to a Kenyan woman despairing at Africa’s “greedy, corrupt and tribal” political leaders, Mr Obama hit out at “violent” and “bullying” men in positions of power.

“Women in particular, by the way, I want you to get more involved, because men have been getting on my nerves lately,” he told the town hall event. “Every day I read the newspaper and I just think, ‘Brothers, what’s wrong with you guys? What’s wrong with us?’

“We’re violent, we’re bullying, we’re just not handling our business, so I think empowering more women on the continent – that right away is going to lead to some better policies.”

He told the audience there are many “different ways in which you can effectuate change,” adding: “The one thing you can’t do is pretend that politics doesn’t matter and say to yourself ‘that’s too corrupt, that’s too broken, I’m not going to get involved in it’.

“Because at some point, if you are ambitious about what you are doing in your home country, you will confront politics.”

The comments could be seen as another rebuke to his successor as US president, following indirect criticism of Donald Trump during an earlier speech in South Africa honouring the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

Without once mentioning Mr Trump by name, Mr Obama condemned the “utter loss of shame” shown by some political leaders “when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more”.

“Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they’d be like, ‘Oh man.’ Now they just keep on lying,” he said.

He continued: “We see it in the promotion of anti-intellectualism and the rejection of science from leaders who find critical thinking and data somehow politically inconvenient.

“And, as with the denial of rights, the denial of facts runs counter to democracy, it could be its undoing, which is why we must zealously protect independent media.”

Mr Obama has refused to criticise Mr Trump directly since the 72-year-old took office 18 months ago, despite his successor’s determination to reverse a raft of his achievements.

Mr Trump has already pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal, reversed a series of Obama-era environmental policies, and attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.