Nobel Peace Prize summit cancelled over protest

Laureates refuse to attend over South Africa refusal to give visa to Dalai Lama

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Ashamed to call this lickspitle bunch [the ANC] my government.” Photograph: Reuters

Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “Ashamed to call this lickspitle bunch [the ANC] my government.” Photograph: Reuters


A planned summit of Nobel Peace Prize laureates is not to go ahead in Cape Town this month because of the refusal of the South African government to grant an entry visa to the Dalai Lama.

The mayor of Cape Town, Patricia de Lille, said yesterday that while the city would not now be hosting the prestigious event as planned, the permanent secretariat of World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates was considering relocating it rather than calling it off.

“The primary reason for the relocation is the fact that the South African government has refused to allow his holiness the Dalai Lama a visa to attend,” said Ms de Lille, a member of the opposition Democratic Alliance.

The announcement came hours after the Dalai Lama accused the South African government of “bullying a simple person” by denying him a visa to attend the summit. He was speaking at a ceremony to mark 25 years since he received the Nobel Peace Prize in his home village of Dharamshala in northern India.

This was the first time the Nobel peace summit was to be held on African soil, but a growing number of Nobel laureates had indicated they would not attend the event, scheduled for October 13th to 15th, in protest over the government’s stance.

The summit was supposed to honour the achievements of Nelson Mandela and 20 years since the end of apartheid.

Mairead Maguire, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for her efforts to promote peace in Norther Ireland, is reportedly one of six laureates who refused to attend.

Other Nobel laureates who pulled out in protest include American political activist Jody Williams, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi, and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee. All the women are members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

The government has kept silent on the controversy, but this is the third time in five years it has refused the Dalai Lama entry. He was refused a visa in 2009 and again in 2011 to attend Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration.

China concerns

China annexed Tibet in 1949. During the uprising 10 years later the Dalai Lama fled to India, where he has pushed for independence for Tibet.

Many South Africans find the situation embarrassing and see the government’s position as betraying the country’s commitment to human rights.

On Wednesday Archbishop Tutu, who is also a Nobel Peace Prize winner, broke his silence on the issue by saying he was “ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch [the ANC] my government”.