9 November 2012

Kenya: Obama Has Earned World's Admiration

Photo: Scout Tufankjian/Obama for America
U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at their second presidential debate in Ohio.


The world has embraced President Barack Obama as its leader. His victory in the US elections Tuesday returned to the helm of the world someone who is admired for his determination and adored for giving hope to the struggle against discrimination, poverty and injustice.

Born of mixed (black and white) parentage, raised on two religions and on different continents, Obama easily bridged the divide between white and black, Muslim and Christian, poor and rich. His rise is testimony to what human endeavor can achieve with proper focus regardless of the odds.

In a way, over the past four years, he has vindicated himself as deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded grudgingly four years ago.

Even though he cannot boast of having brokered peace in any significant conflict, he is held aloft as a symbolic force for uniting a religious and racially-divided world. More is expected of him in his final term.

And there is no reason why he should disappoint. Whereas he was inhibited in his actions in the first term to earn re-election points, the Obama of the second term is likely to be more assertive in the interest of justice, law and order around the world.

Without wielding the American hammer or overt patronage, Obama should extend a hand to the rest of societies that are struggling to express themselves, are mired in perpetual conflicts or suppressed by dictatorship.

Africanists who believe Obama has not helped the continent out of its vicious cycle of violent conflict, poor governance and wanton poverty will be looking for hope in the sober and humane face of Obama to light their lives. He cannot shy away from the conflicts in Congo, the Maghreb or Horn of Africa any more.

Obama should look beyond the Arab-Israel conflict and take his eyes off Iran, which has become the pet obsession of the West. There is more to world peace than Iran's exaggerated nuclear program.

Over the past four years, and since the elimination of Osama bin Laden, the interests of the developed world seem to have grown alien to many developing countries.

It is the quest for economic development and political freedom that animates many Africans more than the fight against terrorism, which is fed by deprivation and exploitation. In that contest, China seems to have read the situation correctly, hence its increasing economic and political influence on the continent.

It might be opportune for Obama to lead the West in a vigorous prognosis of its engagement with the third world and continent, if he is to leave a better legacy than Bill Clinton's Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

And that is a genetic imperative he cannot avoid. It is a debt he owes for the sentimental attachment the continent and the black race has for his leadership and the emancipatory role he has assumed.

Even though they will all congratulate him, Obama's victory is definitely not being celebrated by some. The lords of impunity and the crusaders against change on the continent have cause to worry.

Back here at home, the Kenyan elections provide a crucial test to our adherence to universal principles of morality and justice. The unresolved cases at the International Criminal Court and the challenges being mounted against the suspects contesting the presidency are certain to interest President Obama.

Forget the diplomatic niceties about Kenyans being free to choose the leaders they want. The reality is that the choice on March 4 is already circumscribed by foreign interest with obvious consequences.

It is only fair that America and other western states with which Kenya has diplomatic and economic interests declare their position on the forthcoming elections for the voters to comprehend the repercussions of their decisions sooner than later.

Makali is a journalist and Political commentator.

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