Barack Obama lands in South Africa for a state visit tomorrow. How do you feel about that?
In 2006, during his last visit he was celebrated, and yet now when he lands he will face possible attempts at his arrest and mass protests. Two organisations have sought arrest warrants for him, bringing charges “of war crimes and crimes against humanity”. The High Court in Pretoria has dismissed an urgent application for an arrest warrant based not on the merits of the case, but rather on the urgency of the case.
In the USA, civil rights activist, Noam Chomsky, recently said he believed that Barack Obama’s human rights record was worse than that of George Bush. He further said that he was not sure if the current US president would stand up to scrutiny if judged according to the Nuremberg principles (a set of guidelines for determining what constitutes a war crime drawn up primarily to facilitate the trials of Nazi war criminals). Having recently read these principles (and in particular principle six which deals with crimes punishable under international law), it is difficult not to agree with Noam Chomsky’s conclusions. As head of state, Pres Barack Obama has presided over arguably the greatest corrosion of Civil Liberties since the inception of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A growing number of civil rights organisations in South Africa (18 by this morning), including the ruling party’s two main Alliance partners – the South African Communist Party and COSATU, are hosting mass protests against his visit. Their reasons include the following:
“1. The championing and maintenance, by the USA, in the militarisation of international relations and co-operation. It is a well-known fact that the USA approaches conflicts in the world through inciting, encouraging as well and championing war, primarily driven by its business interests often masqueraded in the language of defence of human rights. The militarisation of international relations is in the main exemplified by institutions like Africom, NATO, and the continuing double standards around nuclear disarmament that the USA preaches when it comes to countries in the South, whilst continuing to collaborate with on nuclear weapons with Israel.
2. The continued greed in the guzzling of world resources by the USA epitomised by its encouragement and support of its multinational companies that have no regard for the environment, human rights, progressive labour laws etc.
3. The USA’s active support and defence of colonial and oppressive regimes. This is the one aspect of USA foreign policy that most exposes its hypocritical character where regimes that support its interest are never opposed; instead they are not only supported but maintained through amongst other things, the USA war machinery.
Chief amongst these is Israel, which continues to serve as the USA’s frontline state in the Middle-East whilst suppressing and maintaining its racist apartheid policies on Palestinian people. Another example is the USA’s support to Morocco, that is oppressing and colonially occupying Western Sahara, and increasingly the support of oppressive regimes like the one in Colombia.
4. The USA’s role maintaining the underdevelopment of the African continent and its imperialistic trade relations with African countries.
5. The unjustifiable blockade on Cuba, and the unfair imprisonment of the Cuban 5.
6. The United States of America is the single largest contributor to global warming which is condemning the world into catastrophic environmental disasters.”
While you may or may not agree with all of these reasons, what is clear is that the United States of America is lost its way. Most South African’s love America. We love its people. We celebrate its celebrities, and flock to movie theatres when the latest blockbuster is released.
No South Africans I know, desire any harm for the United States of America or its citizens. We are not enemies of the USA, or its people.
Many of us are however concerned that the trajectory the current United States administration is on is making the world a less safe and less humane place. As a result of this, I and my family will be joining in the protest tomorrow, Friday 28 June at 10am at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.