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South Africans Slam US "Plunder" and "Atrocities" as Obama Arrives
Demonstrations coincide with failing health of S. African hero, Nelson Mandela: "We hope Obama can learn from him."
"No You Can't!" was the cry as hundreds of South Africans marched on the US Embassy in the capital city of Pretoria Friday in protest of visiting United States President Barack Obama.
"Their administration's government is not welcome, and is being received with antagonism," said campaign coordinator Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
Demonstrators were organizing to raise public awareness about the gross human rights violations being committed by the Obama administration, including the proliferation of drone warfare and the treatment and indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo.
In a statement released ahead of the visit, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) denounced the Administration's "horrifying record of foreign policy in the world," citing the "militarization of international relations for the multinational companies and their profit-seeking classes in the US," and the presence of AFRICOM and other Special Operations forces, "which are largely responsible for the destabilization of various countries and communities."
The embassy rally was staged near the Pretoria Heart Clinic where anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African president, Nelson Mandela, has been hospitalized with a lung infection for nearly three weeks.
The leader's family has gathered by his bedside though Mandela's ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said he has made "a great improvement" in recent days. However, she added, "But clinically he is still unwell," BBC reports.
Ahead of the trip, President Obama stated that Mandela was a "personal hero" of his, the irony of which was not lost on the nearby demonstrators.
"Mandela valued human life ... Mandela would condemn drone attacks and civilian deaths, Mandela cannot be his hero, he cannot be on that list," said protester Yousha Tayob.
"Mandela valued human life ... Mandela would condemn drone attacks and civilian deaths, Mandela cannot be his hero." –protester Yousha Tayob
President Obama had initially planned to visit Mandela's hospital room, but because of Mandela's recent turn in health is deferring to his family on whether that would be "appropriate."
Reporting on the protest, Reuters writes:
Muslim activists held prayers in a car park outside the embassy. Leader Imam Sayeed Mohammed told the group: "We hope that Mandela feels better and that Obama can learn from him."
South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for US drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to fulfill a pledge to close the US military detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba housing terrorism suspects.
As they marched, protesters carried signs reading "No You Can't, Obama," co-opting the infamous 2008 campaign slogan, "Yes We Can."
According to the Associated Press, demonstrators staged a similar protest outside of the Parliament building in Cape Town.
"He's coming here to plunder Africa and South Africa," said protester Abdurahman Khan. "He's coming for the wealth and resources, for the gold and the diamond mines, while the majority of Africans and South Africans are suffering."
Additional rallies are planned Saturday at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus—where university students and staff have vowed to boycott the US President's address and acceptance of an honorary law degree—and on Sunday at the University of Cape Town.