Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Has Obama lived up to Africa’s hopes?

A few weeks ago a friend of mine raised an observation that has since then preoccupied my mind.

He said there is a curious misconception among Africans who follow American politics which leads them to think the Democratic Party in that country is somehow more sympathetic to Africa than the Republicans.

The whole misconception, he said, is premised on a false belief that the Democrats are more disposed to being socialist in their outlook. “Naively Africans always want to relate with anyone they deem socialist,” he said.

My friend says contrary to popular belief, evidence on the ground shows that the Republicans have by far always been kinder to Africa than their Democratic counterparts.

After a long reflection, I cannot agree more with him.

Bill Clinton may have been as socialist in his outlook as any American can be, but on a practical scale he certainly was no kinder to Africa than, say, Ronald Reagan.

The Democratic Party’s disregard for Africa has not improved even with the arrival of Barack Obama; the first black president in American history on whose shoulders Africa seemed to have heaped all its hopes when he came into the White House.

Although he is black, Obama is as American as they come. In fact he has not done or said anything to suggest he is anyhow related to Africa. Our association with him is purely incidental. As it is, Africa is so clearly not among his priorities.

After Africa’s fanfare that accompanied Obama’s arrival, the continent has been left cutting an image of a destitute uncle who would not stop boasting about a rich and famous nephew who stays at the city.

As it were, the nephew would neither come to the village nor send money to the poor uncle.

The uncle has thus remained poor and the little village as obscure as ever.

The situation is worse for the Kenyans who thought because Obama’s father was one of their own, the young Obama would in turn also be one of them.

Four years hence a Kenyan president is still to receive an invitation to visit the White House. Chances of Obama visiting grow remote by the day. Like the rest of Africa the Kenyans have been left holding a toy phone.

The disappointment wouldn’t be so painful had Africans not got carried away by the colour of Obama’s skin. All they needed do was check the history of past relations between their continent and the two American parties. Obama is a Democrat ÔÇô to the core.

There is nothing wrong with Africa wishing Obama success, but it was an act of unpardonable irresponsibility to assume that just because he was a black man, Africa would for the first time assume a centre stage in America’s foreign policy.

Since Obama assumed the highest office on earth, he has to my knowledge visited only two African countries ÔÇô Ghana and Egypt. In both instances he came not to listen or confer but to lecture Africa on democracy and governance.

Obama’s immediate predecessor, George W. Bush may have brought the world economy on its knees, but it was under his watch that over $20 billion in American money was committed to Africa to fight HIV/AIDS.

Bush may have started what amounted to a little world war in his attack of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it was him who opened the American market to Africa through what is popularly known as AGOA.
Deemed a right wing neophyte , whose sanity was openly impugned by many moderate internationalists, Bush’s record on Africa speaks to the contrary. Bush is as white as white can be, but his record designates him a thoroughgoing non-racist who cared most for the impoverished and disease stricken black Africa.

I cannot think of a man more prejudiced solely on the basis of membership to a political party they belonged to than George W. Bush.

Whatever little benefits we continue to enjoy under Obama, they almost certainly are all remnants from the Bush era.

Botswana was not only a beneficiary of Bush’s generosity, the country was also blessed with an official visit.

So far the nearest we have gotten to Barack Obama has been to receive his wife, two daughters and an in-law.

It would seem like the only thing Obama has in common with Black Africa is the colour of his skin. And maybe his hair!

In the end we hoped for so much, only to receive so little.
But then it serves us right.

Obama’s intelligence and eloquence are unparalleled.

But that’s scarcely why Africa was quick to embrace him.

We embraced him purely on the basis of his colour. In him we saw our images.
If that is racism then I don’t know what is.

Who said black Africans cannot be racist?

It’s astonishing that for all the assistance Bush gave to Africa, as a continent we had joined the bandwagon of people who could not wait to see him leave the White House.

Towards the end of the year, there will be elections in the United States of America which Obama may very well lose. If that happens will Africans have anything to show for a first black president in the White House ÔÇô other than that the colour of his skin resembled theirs? Regretfully my answer is “NOT MUCH.”


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