On the 29th of April 2013, the influential South African Think Tank,  The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR), organized a public dialogue meeting in Cape Town. The theme and focus of this meeting was to analyze ‘United Stated Policy Towards Africa’.

The main speakers of this important gathering were ANC intellectual and former South African government Minister, Dr. Palo Jordan who chaired the meeting; Consul-General of the United States in South Africa, Ms Erica Barks-Ruggles;  Professor Gilbert Khadiagala, Head of Department of International Relations University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and  Dr Adekeye Adebajo,  Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town.

The Center for Conflict Resolution officially invited to this meeting representatives of Ogaden Community Association of South Africa (OCASA) and Ogaden Youth and Students Union (OYSU) of South Africa.  Members of the Oromo Community of South Africa were also in attendance.

In his opening statement Dr. Palo Jordan spoke about the history of Africa and the long struggle for independence the people of Africa waged to free themselves from the yoke of colonialism and the unfinished task that still lies ahead – that economic development and integration of the African continent.

On her part, the Consul-General of the US, Ms Erica Barks-Ruggles, spoke at length about the United States engagement in Africa and the development assistance programs the US extends to the African continent. She told the audience that close to 10.000 US military personnel are currently present in Africa, mostly in Djibouti, providing muchly needed expertise in areas of capacity building and training programs to the African Union to fight against terrorism. She said the US is currently training the AMISON troops in Somalia and the Somali national army.

Another speaker, Professor Gilbert Khadiagala of Witwatersrand University, spoke about how rich Africa was in terms of resources and the economic development potential of these natural resources if they’re properly tapped and exploited.

Question and answer session

After the speakers concluded their lectures, the public was given opportunity to ask questions and give feedback.

Among those who gave valuable feedback to the meeting and raised serious questions were representatives of Ogaden community of South Africa.

The Secretary-General of OYSU Cape Town Mr. M. Fatule spoke about the negative impact of the un-monitored aid which the United States government gives to the Ethiopian regime and how the regime uses this aid to oppress the Ethiopian people in general and commit war-crimes and crimes against humanity in Ogaden in particular. Mr. Fatule urged the US government to take measures that will ensure its aid is not misspent and used to fight forces of freedom and democracy in Ethiopia. He further urged the United States government to take greater role in resolving the Ogaden conflict as it has done in other hot-spots in the continent.

Ms Erica Barks-Ruggles gave a comprehensive reply to Mr. Fatule’s questions and said she was deeply disturbed by the human rights violations taking place in Ogaden and concluded her reply with President Obama’s famous statement that “Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions,” institutions that respect the rule of law and safeguard the citizens rights.

At the close of the meeting OCASA representatives distributed among the delegates an eight page document detailing the extent of the Ethiopian regime’s human rights violations in Ogaden.

ONA/Cape Town, South Africa

 

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