Bad Weathers Forces Michelle Obama to Cancel Trip to Mandela Prison

June 23, 2011 - 2:17 AM

Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama holds up a carrot while visiting a community service project at Vhuthilo Community Center in Soweto township, Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, Pool)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) - Michelle Obama's planned ferry ride Thursday to the Robben Island prison, where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years, has been canceled because of bad weather.

Aides to the first lady blamed high winds that tossed the Atlantic Ocean and made it too treacherous to cross. She planned a stop at a local museum instead.

Mrs. Obama is on a weeklong visit to South Africa and Botswana to promote youth leadership, education, health and wellness. She also has been touring landmarks of South Africa's past as a nation that once institutionalized the separation of blacks and whites under a system known as apartheid.

Robben Island is one of those sites, and a tour of the closet-sized cell that housed Mandela all those years was expected to be an emotional high point of the trip.

The former South African president spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on the island off the coast of Cape Town for his role in the movement to undo that system of racial segregation. Apartheid ended in 1994, when Mandela was elected president several years after he again became a free man.

Mrs. Obama has been traveling with several family members, including daughters Malia and Sasha; her mother, Marian Robinson; and a niece and nephew. President Barack Obama stayed in Washington.

The first lady and her entourage arrived in South Africa late Monday and were to fly to Botswana on Friday. The visits are her first to either country.