African Americans Deplore Obama Boycott Of Racism Conference

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Roger Wareham, with the December 12th Movement and Secretary General of the IAAT said countries responsible for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery that "can run but they cannot hide."

[Global: Durban Review]

HENRY GOMBYA REPORTS FROM GENEVA FOR THE BLACK STAR NEWS--African-Americans long involved in the struggle for leaders of the Western world to recognize the scourge of the slave trade, have said in interviews with The Black Star News that President Barack Obama has badly let them down by allowing the U.S. to boycott the Durban Review meetings in Geneva, Switzerland.

Separately, a UN official said the US had no excuse for the boycott since any potentially offensive language had been removed from preparatory documents.

Speaking exclusively to BSN regarding the evils of racism, Jahahara Amen-Ra Alkeburan-Ma'at, an African-American author originally from Missouri said President Obama has "sold out" people of color by not attending the most important conference dealing with racism and its legacy.

He said that at least with George W. Bush they knew where he stood.

He used an analogy that Malcolm X used to like; likened President Obama to a dentist who pulls out your teeth by first injecting Novocain on your gums so that you do not feel the pain while he pulls out the teeth. The pain comes much later on, he said.

Ma'at was joined in his criticism of Obama by the Global Afrikan Congress (GAK); the organization wrote a letter to President Obama criticizing him for not attending the Conference.

Signed by GAK's co-chairs Cikiah Thomas and Dorothy B. Lewis, the letter said through his speeches, President Obama had raised the hopes and aspirations of dispossessed Americans as well those of the marginalized throughout the world.

"The principles, philosophy and moral courage you demonstrated, represent fundamental changes with respect to equality, racial justice and the fulfillment of our hopes for humankind," read the letter, adding that "billions of people around the world from all geographical regions, see you as the realization of the hope they did not think was possible in their lifetime."

"Never before," their letter went on, "had the descendants of enslaved and colonially subjugated Africans had the opportunity to see and hear the international community acknowledge their complicity in African slavery. ¨We respectfully submit that your administration's decision not to participate in the United Nation's Durban Review Conference is the wrong message for you to be sending to the world."

In a press statement released later in the day, GAK joined other NGOs, the December 12th Movement, the International Association Against Torture (IAAT), the National Conference of Black Lawyers (NCBL) and the New Black Panther Party (NBPP), calling the opening day of the UN Review of the World Conference Against Racism a "victory."

Dr. Ibrahim Salama, of the office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR) said at a NGO briefing that he was quite certain that the draft outcome document adopted Tuesday would be accepted as an enhancement to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA).

"This simple affirmation is important given the continuing campaign by Western countries which signed the DDPA in 2001 to revise history and eliminate steps the DDPA took in setting the concrete framework for resolving racism," the statement said.

"This Review Conference and the outcome Document will serve as a catalyst for our people to become even more active in pursuit of our just and long overdue demands. We are one step closer to reparations," the statement read.

It was understood by BSN that the current text in the Review outcome document was the sole reason the United States chose to stay away from this conference.

Roger Wareham, with the December 12th Movement and Secretary General of the IAAT said countries responsible for the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery that "can run but they cannot hide."

The DDPA was agreed by consensus at the first Durban Review Conference held in Durban South Africa in 2001. The United States and Israel both rejected it and walked out of the conference. In a statement explaining its boycott, the U.S. cited as its main stumbling block reaffirmation of the DDPA.

The UNHCR Commissioner, Navi Pillay said: "I believe that difficulty could have been overcome. It would have been possible to make it clear in a footnote that the US had not affirmed the original document and therefore is not in a position to reaffirm it which is a routine practice in multilateral negotiations to enable consensus-building while allowing for individual positions to be expressed."

She explained that the reference to incitement to hatred in the outcome document is covered in Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. "This is one of the key overarching human rights treaties drawn up after World War II. It was intended to ensure that the type of incitement to hatred employed by the Nazi propaganda machine in the 1930s and 40s would be prohibited by law," she said.

Pillay said the media had interpreted the US withdrawal from the Conference as based on the continued retention of language on defamation of religion and anti-Semitism in the outcome document.

"In fact, no such language exists in the text," she said. "The outcome document clearly states that the Holocaust must never be forgotten and deplores all forms of racism including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. I fail to see why, given that the Middle East is not mentioned in this document, that politics related to the Middle East continue to intrude into the process."

Meanwhile, the Conference entered its third day of deliberations after Member States unanimously adopted its outcome document that acknowledged the need to enhance further, the effectiveness of the mechanisms dealing with racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The adoption of the outcome document was described by the conference's President, Kenya's Attorney General Amos Wako as proof that boycotts did not help the process.

He said that one could remain constructively engaged and reach a consensus. "Provided that all moved forward in this journey, all could achieve their objectives united in diversity, based on love and respect," Wako said.

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