A large crowd turned out to the Elliott School Friday to hear a discussion about South Africa’s transition from its former apartheid regime to a democracy.
Deputy Chief of Mission from the South African Embassy Diederick Moyo and former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Princeton Lyman applauded South Africa’s peaceful transition that has taken place over the past decade, while many other African nations remain locked in a continuous cycle of violence.
Addressing the need for an American strategic plan in Africa, Lyman, who now serves as director of Africa policy studies for the Council of Foreign Relations warned, “If humanitarianism is the only focus, it makes Africa a charity case.”
While South Africa has made much progress in recent years, having achieved political stability through multiple rounds of successful elections, Moyo lamented that a decade after the end of apartheid, his country is still “seeking to come to grips with its past.”
“To get at the truth you needed a system that would bring victims forward,” Lyman said. The nation created the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which set out to “clarify history for South Africans.”
The TRC created a legal framework that offered amnesty to some white Afrikaners who were willing to reveal the truth at TRC hearings, which were broadcast live on South African television.
“Many South Africans were shocked by what came out of the truth commission,” Moyo said.
As a reminder that much of Africa remains in turmoil, during the question and answer period, a woman from Uganda rose to protest the dire situation in her home country. As the woman expressed her concern that the very officials who persecuted her family would be given amnesty, she was cut off by moderator David Shinn, the former U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.
“She shouldn’t have been shut up,” said freshman Meghan Barrett, who said she was frustrated that the event failed to give a clear picture of the current situation in Africa. “The point was for this event to relate what is happening now, not just what happened 10 years ago.”