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South African Students Protest Obama Honourary Doctorate

posted Jun 29, 2013, 3:20 AM by Mpelembe   [ updated Jun 29, 2013, 4:04 AM ]

Anti-Obama protesters gather at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus as the institution prepares to award an honorary doctorate to the U.S. president.

SOWETO AREA OF JOHANNESBURGSOUTH AFRICA (JUNE 29, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Dozens of protesters gathered at the University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus on Saturday (June 29) as it prepared to present an honorary doctorate to U.S. President Barack Obama.

Obama was scheduled to hold a "town hall meeting" with youth leaders at the campus, which lies in the Johannesburg township known for 1976 student protests against apartheid.

The town hall meeting caused small protests amongst students of the university who objected to Obama's visit at the time when they say the intake of South African universities is not representative of the country's racial mix.

"Our university can decide to give an honorary doctorate to a black man fromAmerica, when students within our university, black students within our university, are dropping out at an enormous rate because of the continued existence of the legacy of racism," said local resident Claire Ceruti.

Other students accused Obama of human rights violations and felt that the doctorate should not have been awarded.

"As a UJ [University of Johannesburg] student, we feel that Mr Obama is being honoured and we do not see see, we do not feel, that he deserves the doctorate," said student Nekhmeyah.

Protesters at the Soweto campus shouted "Go back Obama" and carried posters that showed Obama with a Hitler moustache.

On Friday (June 28) nearly 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and South African Communist Party members marched to the U.S. embassy shouting slogans denouncing Obama's foreign policy as "arrogant and oppressive".

South African critics of Obama have focused in particular on his support for U.S. drone strikes overseas, which they say have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, and his failure to fulfil a pledge to close the U.S. military detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.