JOHANNESBURG — U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to touch down in South Africa within a matter of days, and his schedule includes meetings with political leaders, student groups and an honorary degree from the University of Johannesburg. There are several groups, however, calling for a boycott of Obama's visit.
When Obama arrives in Johannesburg on Friday, he should expect a sideshow beside his warm welcome by South African dignitaries.
Some South African communist groups, student organizations, Muslim groups, unions and other political organizations are planning what they hope will be large protests of Obama's visit.
The groups say they will demonstrate for the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention camp, for the stoppage of any wiretapping of emails or phone calls, and against the involvement of the U.S. in conflicts throughout the world, including Syria.
Phutas Tseki, the Gauteng Province chairman of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said Obama has failed to keep his campaign promises.
"One of the things that we are standing up against here is the hypocrisy of the Obama administration. When Obama was elected he said to the world that he would lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, that was not done. He said to the world he would close Guantanamo Bay. That was not done. Obama promised the world that we would be in a state of peace - that was not done. Instead, Obama administration is approving the supply of weapons to people who are not a state, to people who are not a government, such as it is happening in Syria. These are the type of actions that we are opposed to," said Tseki.
Among the activists protesting the Obama visit is Yousha Tayob, with the Muslim Lawyers Association. His group had asked prosecutors and police to arrest Obama as a war criminal on his arrival in South Africa. Prosecutors have rejected the request, which the group is now appealing to a high court.
Their request for an investigation and arrest was based on the usage of Guantanamo Bay and drone strikes used to kill alleged terrorists, among other things.
"Absolutely shocking, absolutely shocking. So these are all the things we rely on in the docket and our NDPP and Police Authorities have seen fit not to even to investigate the matter," said Tayob.
The groups have three major protests planned, two on Friday and one on Saturday outside of the University of Johannesburg, which plans to bestow an honorary doctorate of law on the U.S. president.
Masete Levy of the South African Students Congress urged the university not to move forward with the plan.
"Our contention is very simple - that President Obama and the imperialist U.S. regime have consistently undermined international law and created a situation of anarchy, war and disruption of normal human life in the world." said Levy. "We think that as a university based in a country that respects democracy, human life, freedom and the general liberty of human species, the University of Johannesburg must not implicate itself as a university that respects violations of human rights and international law."
South Africa's Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim said Friday the protesters should be allowed to protest. But he also said this visit by a U.S. president is important for economic and political relations between the two countries.
Obama is expected to meet with key leaders, including South African President Jacob Zuma, during his three-day visit.