JOHANNESBURG (AP) - President Barack Obama met privately Saturday with the family of Nelson Mandela.
The meeting was held in Johannesburg at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, part of the former South African president's foundation.
It lasted for about a half hour, enough time for a small crowd to gather outside for Obama's departure.
The White House says Obama met with two of Mandela's daughters and several grandchildren.
He will not meet with the ailing 94-year-old Mandela, who is hospitalized with a lung infection. The White House says the decision was made in accordance with the wishes of Mandela's family.
The White House initially said first lady Michelle Obama would attend, but later said she did not accompany the president. Mrs. Obama met Mandela during her trip to Africa in 2011.
At the Swahili Village restaurant in Beltsville Saturday, Africans from around the continent gathered with Mandela on their minds.
“My thoughts and my prayers go out to Madiba,” says Lynette Kieti of Arlington. “He is the most amazing person in my lifetime, I believe… his contribution to ending apartheid is important to everyone on this earth, but more so to people in Africa.”
At this critical time, they reflect on Mandela's days as a freedom fighter.
“We didn’t have freedom... we had to struggle and we have to claim it and even after claiming it, you have to maintain it and that’s the hardest part,” says Anita Mhina of Chesapeake Beach.
Many had hoped President Obama would get to meet with Mandela, but that didn’t happen, so now they wait and hope for the best.
“Mandela has been the liberator of South Africa, and all of us, all we can do is just put our hearts together and just pray for him,” says Julius Nche of Silver Spring.
“We know we all have to go, but we just want him to go peacefully without him being in pain, so we can’t thank him enough for what he did for Africans,” says Florence Kiremerwa of Beltsville.