New Era (Windhoek)

16 November 2012

Africa: America Continues Voting Against Abolition of Slavery!

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Barack Hussein Obama has, perhaps not surprisingly, been elected to a second term as President of the United States of America (USA).

One wonders whether Namibia, Africa, and indeed the rest of the world, would now have a different expectation of him as when he was elected for the first time. Like many fellow Namibian sisters and brothers, and indeed fellow African sisters and brothers, I somehow harboured some expectations. The expectation, naïve as it may have been, was that Namibia, and indeed Africa, now that the USA was to be run by someone with African blood in his veins, could expect better things.

But four years down the line and a few months before his second term, could we now really say that such expectations were misplaced, or could it for a fact be said that Obama's reign has been inconsequent as far as Namibia, Africa and the rest of the world is concerned?

Before one addresses such a concern, and even the latter concern of his second term, it is important to put the election of Obama in its proper context.

And in this regard my mind and soul flashes back to the first Obama victory night in 2008. The picture that has since that victory been vivid in my mind is seeing the tears rolling down the cheeks of veteran civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson. I am not quite sure until this day what must have gone through his mind and soul to have induced those tearing emotions. But it is not hard to imagine either.

To Reverend Jackson and most Afro-American brothers and sisters who bore the brunt of the American segregation policy, there's no way that the election of a fellow Afro-American could have been meaningless and as hollow as it may have seemed to the rest of the world, as much as it may have led to naive and/or unrealistic expectations.

To all intents and purposes the election in 2008 of Obama was the reincarnation in the 21st century, of the ideals and aspirations of the civil rights movement. It was a natural outflow, if not continuation, the intervening time period notwithstanding, of the pursuits of the civil rights movement of more than 50 years ago.

No one can, realistically speaking, de-link the election of Obama in 2008 from the civil rights movement led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr., and fellows like Reverend Jackson, Malcolm X, William Edward du Bois, George Padmore and Marcus Garvey, to mention but a few.

It thus goes without saying that the election of Obama in 2008 was the beginning of the 21 first manifestations of the "I have a dream" ideal of Dr. King in particular, and fellows.

The "I have a dream" ideal, unlike many would appreciate, was planted long before the activism of the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

In fact it has its genesis in the American revolution from 1600 to 1800 spearhead by the likes of John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington.

The American revolution can historically be said to have led to the abolitionist movement, spearheaded among others by organisations such as the Quakers. In 1688, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in their first public protest, Quakers expressed the view: "Now tho' they are Black, we cannot conceive there is more liberty to have them slaves, as it is to have White ones." One cause led to another and subsequently in later years there came the civil rights movement as per Dr King and others.

And today somehow Obama can be seen as having taken on this mantle. Thus, when one speaks of what Obama is doing for either Namibia, Africa and the rest of the world, one should not lose sight of the fact that Obama is carrying the torch of many struggles of the American people, especially starting with slavery, and later segregation which became the target and focal point of the civil rights movement. In the ensuing years, this campaign has manifested itself in such internal civil campaigns such as Black Economic Empowerment. "Economic empowerment is rooted in education, opportunity and self-help. Education must include financial literacy, development of marketable skills, and knowledge about basic rights.

"Also essential are freedom from violence and intimidation, laws ensuring equal-opportunity employment, access to credit and finance, jobs paying adequate wages, and representation in decision-making positions."

While many milestones have been achieved by the Afro-Americans in the USA in this regard, with some being now represented on the various decision-making instances in the American socio-economic and political strata, Obama's election, first and foremost can appropriately be seen in this context, that is the context of the American people themselves.

Thus, the pertinent question that needs asking regarding the first term of Obama, is not so much what he has been able to do for Namibia, let alone Africa or the world at large but what he has been able to do for America, and the Afro-Americans so much?

Indeed, should anyone have legitimate expectations of the Obama Presidency in the USA then and now and onwards, it should be none other than the American voters, moreso the Afro-American electorate.

Yes, indeed Obama is running, arguably one of the most powerful, if not only hegemonic country in the world. Thus there's no any Namibian, African or world expectations that would supersede those of the American people, let alone those of the Afro-Americans. As much as the expectations of the African people, and of the people of the world may be real and legitimate, the question begs as to what extent the African people, and/or their people have been trying to drive their agenda onto the American political agenda.

Taking a cue from the recent election campaign in the USA, it was obvious that international issues somewhere on the world like in the Middle East, rather than in Namibia, or Africa for that matter, seemed to reign paramount.

Yes, the Middle East may be of strategic interest to the USA. But if the Middle East is, why not also Africa? Let alone Namibia herself, given her strategic importance based on her natural resources endowment such as uranium and what-have-you? That is if assuming that Namibia is not already, at least to the degree of its strategic importance. But the bold statement with the re-election of Obama is that slavery has long been abolished in the USA, and it shall never be again!

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