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Today September 23, 2010, US President Barack Obama delivered remarks to the United Nations General Assembly in New York (here) and urged countries like South Africa to support opposition, human rights activists and dissenters across the World.  Building on yesterday’s remarks at the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit, President Barack Obama underlined the requirement for nations willing to work with the United States to respect human rights.
“One of the first actions of this General Assembly was to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That Declaration begins by stating that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” The idea is a simple one — that freedom, justice and peace for the world must begin with freedom, justice, and peace in the lives of individual human beings.  And for the United States, this is a matter of moral and pragmatic necessity,” said President Obama
He challenged governments that use short term economic achievements and stability to trample on human rights or defer democratic changes:
“In times of economic unease, there can also be an anxiety about human rights.  Today, as in past times of economic downturn, some put human rights aside for the promise of short term stability or the false notion that economic growth can come at the expense of freedom.  We see leaders abolishing term limits.  We see crackdowns on civil society.  We see corruption smothering entrepreneurship and good governance.  We see democratic reforms deferred indefinitely.”
According to President Obama, respecting human rights a black and white choice: being a friend or a foe of the United States of America:
“So we stand up for universal values because it’s the right thing to do.  But we also know from experience that those who defend these values for their people have been our closest friends and allies, while those who have denied those rights — whether terrorist groups or tyrannical governments — have chosen to be our adversaries.”

Finally, he asked countries, especially South Africa,  to support, like America, human rights activists, political opposition, and dissidents across the world.
“The world that America seeks is not one we can build on our own.  For human rights to reach those who suffer the boot of oppression, we need your voices to speak out.  In particular, I appeal to those nations who emerged from tyranny and inspired the world in the second half of the last century — from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to South America.  Don’t stand idly by, don’t be silent, when dissidents elsewhere are imprisoned and protesters are beaten.  Recall your own history.  Because part of the price of our own freedom is standing up for the freedom of others.”
According to observers, the remarks may have  been especially directed against African dictators, including  presidents or prime ministers of Rwanda, Uganda, Erythrea,  and Ethiopia not long ago labelled by US Administration “the new breed of African leaders,” but who have come recently under harsh criticism from the media, human rights organization, the United Nations,  and Western governments for  stifling democracy, repression against the opposition and those suspected of dissent, grave violations of human rights, and, in the case of the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, of genocide against the Hutu majority ethnic group.
The fact that President Obama encourages countries, such as South Africa to support opposition, dissenters,  and human rights activists marks a turning point in how the United States of America will approach human rights, good governance and democracy in Africa. South Africa has given asylum to Rwandan opposition leaders and recently broke diplomatic relations with Rwanda over assassination attempt on former Rwandan General Kayumba Nyamwasa.

©AfroAmerica Network.  All rights reserved. 2010

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