WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama's South Africa visit retraces some of the stops then Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) made when he visited the nation in 2006.
A big difference--Mrs. Obama was given an official welcome--as befits the spouse of a head of state--while Obama in 2006 could not even get a meeting with the then South African president.
Obama left Washington on Aug. 18, 2006, to fly to Cape Town on an official congressional visit that would end Sept. 3 in Chad. Soon after arriving in Cape Town, Obama publicly criticized the South African government as being in "denial" for advocating nutritional treatments over medical alternatives to treat HIV/AIDS.
Obama criticism of South African President Thabo Mbeki's HIV/AIDS treatment policies a day before he hoped to meet with him -- meant the meeting never took place.
Mrs. Obama, with her entourage are or will be in Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, the same cities Sen. Obama visited.
Mrs. Obama on Wednesday visited the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Muesum in Soweto and was shown around by Pieterson's sister, Antoinette Sithole. In 2006, Sithole led Sen. Obama on a tour; at the end, Sen. Obama laid a wreath at the museum's memorial.
In Cape Town on Thursday, the First Lady will visit Robben Island - where former South African President Nelson Mandela--who she met on Tuesday-- was held for 18 of his 27 imprisoned years. Obama started his South Africa trip with a visit to Robben Island--where he stood in Mandela's cell.
Mrs. Obama will meet with Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Tutu met with then Sen. Obama in 2006 and teased him about one day becoming president of the U.S.
Ironic note: In Cape Town, "Mrs. Obama is meeting with organizations dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS in South Africa, including using soccer as a means to convene and educate South African children about HIV/AIDS."
Mrs. Obama and her daughters and friends met up with then Sen. Obama in 2006 in Kenya--where she took an HIV/AIDS test with Obama in public in order to encourage men to be tested with their wives.