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Whose democracy? Whose human rights?

Published Dec 12, 2021


Staff Reporter

The true extent of the United States commitment to democracy and human rights will come under the microscope at a virtual conference in Johannesburg tomorrow.

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Under the theme, "Whose democracy, whose human rights?", the seminar, organised by the Sunday Independent, will feature China expert Dr Wesley Seale, speaking on the topic "73 Years of the Declaration of Human Rights: Lessons from China". Respondents are international relations expert Zane Dangor, and Dr Zukile Mondi, economics and finance lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand.

The seminar comes shortly after the United States and its Western allies' virtual Summit for Democracy and Human Rights (on December 9 and 10), to which 110 countries were invited, including 17 sub-Saharan countries and South Africa. President Cyril Ramaphosa did not attend the summit.

The invitation list specifically excluded Russia and China, with the ostensible aim of the summit – hosted by President Joe Biden – to defend democracy and human rights around the globe.

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Several questions have arisen from the summit:

Whose interpretation of democracy and human rights is being pursued?

Is it to isolate China, classified by Biden as the "main adversary of the US and the West in the 21st century"?

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Is the summit designed to impose a Western notion of democracy and human rights on emerging and developing nations in South America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa?

Is it a quest by the US and the West to own the moral high ground on democracy and human rights?

Sunday Independent editor Zingisa Mkhuma said the seminar is the first of what she hopes will be a series of debates and discussions initiated by the newspaper on the issues of the day, particularly those faced by South Africans and Africans.

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“Our seminar today was prompted by an international summit for democracy convened last week by the United States and its Western allies, to which 110 countries were invited, and hosted by President Biden,” she said.

“Are we once again going to fall for the moralising sermons of countries like the US, with its own stained record on democracy and human rights? I hope somebody had the courage at last week’s summit to remind Biden of the CIA’s role in the overthrow of democratically-elected governments in Chile and Iran, the continued incarceration of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who have been held without trial for almost 20 years,” Mkhuma said.

“More fresh in memory is the refusal of his predecessor Donald Trump to accept the will of the people in a presidential election in November last year, and the storming of Congress by his supporters in what amounted to an attempted coup. And they have the cheek to lecture the rest of the world about free and fair elections?”

Mkhuma said more pertinent for people from Africa has been the role of the US and some of its Western allies to undermine democratically-elected governments on the continent, and violation of human rights in the so-called fight against terrorism, especially in the Horn of Africa.

“However, more insidious has been the role of corporate America and Europe in violating the rights of Africans, who have been affronted in recent times by the hoarding of the coronavirus vaccines and the exorbitant cost to poorer countries once they do make them available.”

She said that under the cloak of democracy and human rights has been the practice of pharmaceutical companies in the field of medical experimentation, and the dumping of pharmaceutical products on unsuspecting communities on the continent.

A short video titled The Hidden Truth exposing the pain and suffering of women and children in Uganda at the hands of some of these companies will be screened at the seminar.

“As Africans we have also learnt that in the pursuit of profits, human rights are never a consideration. These firms have admitted to spending millions on ‘gifts’ to secure contracts with state health services in order to dump on African communities products that had been banned or restricted in the United States.”

The Hidden Truth can be seen on

To join the seminar, (will send the link once I get it - Editor)