Vice of the Cape –

The Ogaden Somali Community in South Africa has humiliated visiting Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, by distributing pamphlets describing him as a dictator. This happened on Thursday outside the ZK Mathews Hall at UNISA main Campus in Pretoria, where the Horn of Africa leader was scheduled to deliver a talk at the annual Thabo Mbeki Africa Day lecture.

“How could such a prestigious institution invite a dictator to deliver a speech on governance,” Mohamed Dahir of the Ogaden Community in South Africa asked. After discovering that Zenawi was invited to SA, Dahir mobilised his community to demonstrate against the visit. “On Wednesday, we went to the hotel where the prime minister stayed and protested outside, distributing pamphlets, which humiliated him,” Dahir told VOC on Thursday night.

When asked what had Zenawi had done to the Ogaden community to warrant such humiliation, Dahir said Zenawi’s government had allegedly committed crimes against humanity on the Ogaden people, who are ethnic Somalis living in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region. He said his community in South Africa had filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC), urging an investigation into the actions of the Ethiopian government against the Ogaden people.

According to Dahir, it was wrong for South Africa to give Zenawi a red carpet welcome when his government had committed crimes that include extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, disappearances, the destruction of livelihood, the burning of villages and the destruction of live stock in the Ogaden region.

This is not the first time that Zenawi faced opposition from Ethiopians in the diaspora. During this year’s G8 gathering at Camp David in the US, the prime minister was heckled by protesters. Ethiopian journalist Abebe Gellaw made a strong noise, chanting: “Meles Zenawi is a dictator! Free Political Prisoners! Food is nothing without freedom! Meles has committed crimes against humanity! We Need freedom! Freedom!”

Gellaw’s call brought the conference to momentary, screeching halt. Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports claimed that the visiting Ethiopian prime minister had cancelled his participation at the Thabo Mbeki Africa Day lecture. Efforts to get a comment from the Thabo Mbeki Foundation were futile. VOC (Hasan Isilow)


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