Daily Trust (Abuja)

24 May 2013

Africa: Lessons in Barack Obama for Africa

opinion

President Barack Obama is an African by gene; being a direct son of a Kenyan father. His father studied at Hawaii and Harvard universities, on a scholarship scheme for cultivating hearts and brains in Kenyan leaders who would promote future American foreign policy goals in Africa.

His marrying a white fellow student made African-American women mad at being robbed, yet again, of one of their own - including a genuine brand from 'Afrika'. His offspring would compensate them by seeking grassroots political ownership from slum dwellers in "Southside Chicago"; and winning the presidency of the United States. Perhaps babalaos in Haiti, and Bahia in Brazil, had foreseen the coming of America's Black president.

That American investment in future human migration is a vital lesson in Obama for Africa. African countries must recruit new citizens from Africa and the Diaspora: from Papua New Guinea to Brazil.

The man behind the scholarship that brought Obama's father to Hawaii, was the charismatic Kenyan politician - Tom Mboya - was booed in Harlem when he told his black audience to stay and fight for their rights inside America's bowels rather than dream of an exodus back to Africa. He was considered a lackey of their white oppressors; Malcolm X's docile "house negro". Yet it is not clear that Mboya's horizons went beyond asking America to train future builders of national development in Kenya with knowledge harvested inside American classrooms. The closest hint to a project of Africa intervening in American politics was at the founding of the Organisation of African Unity, OAU, when Milton Obote, Uganda's Prime Minister, haughtily told President John Kennedy not to lecture African leaders about democracy until he had given democratic rights to black citizens of his own country. Kwame Nkrumah invited Martin Luther King to Ghana's independence ceremony in 1957. Malcolm X was assassinated in New York after he toured Africa. It is unlikely that Nkrumah and W.E.B. Dubois drew plans to intervene in America's demographic architecture and its political echoes.

The theme of long-term planning for the political emergence of Barack Obama's presidency and its lessons for Africa is a rich one to explore. One starting point is a statement credited to Ehud Barak, a senior Israeli politician. In a comment on Obama's impact on Israel's relations with her neighbours, he quoted saying:" I can hardly remember a better period of American support and backing, and Israeli cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now". That support has hit North Africa with political tornados. In Tunisia, a fruit seller who led no known political movement, set himself on fire, and that fire is now driving street fights between Islamists and "liberals"; and wrecked tourism. When Muammar Qaddafi told Tunisians that they would live to regret Zedine's fall, a fire started in Benghazi. NATO bombers fanned it and imported al-Qaeda "Islamists" into Libya to substitute for Libyans who knew Qaddafi primarily as a man who gave them massive benefits from oil wealth. Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein fell after cooperating with American intelligence agencies to fight Al-Qaeda and Iran.

Hosni Mubarak fell in Egypt from fumes of Tunisia. A 30-years friend of American interests, he was humiliated. Sadam Hussein was plucked from a hole in the ground like a squirrel. Mubarak lay like an old lion inside a cage. Murder and humiliation of leaders became a dividend of a 'spring volcano'.

Their bitter end had hit Africa earlier. Patrice Lumumba's was burnt and its ash scattered by his Dutch killers who wished to deny him a grave that might become a nationalist monument. Nkrumah escaped several assassination attempts instigated by American and British embassies. Mobutu Sese Seko was denied treatment for cancer inside an American or European hospital - people whose companies he had helped loot his country. Idi Amin was aided to overthrown and shut Milton Obote's rude mouth. The convulsions that befell their countries have hit Tunisia, Libya and Egypt and may roll on like blood in Somalia -Congolese dramas.

Obama had thrown charm at Cairo and preached a new American commitment to 'democracy'. President George Bush 2 had proclaimed it, but Obama followed lyrics of that anti-Vietnam War song by students at Stanford: "a little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down; go down, in the most delightful way!" That 'charm' is a great lesson for Africa's international diplomacy at a time when our leaders look so wooden - from aging Eduardo Dos Santos in Angola to Mohammed Morsi in Egypt.

Obama sent forth a charming Hillary Clinton. As Senator she hated President Robert Mugabe for yanking land back from Jewish and other white farmers for distribution to landless Shona and Ndebele rural folks who had fought for freedom to own land. Israel's interests were paramount.

Her husband, Bill Clinton, ran a non-governmental organisation which trained educated young Egyptians how to start and breed successful businesses. They became vital fuel inside Tahrir Square's revolution. Setting fire to turbans on heads of Arabs has become a brilliant defence of Israel's security. It allowed Obama to hug Asia, a schoolboy's passion bred in Indonesia. Charm, as "Soft Power" serves the dictum that: 'there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests'; and 'democracy' can love barbarity, arson, rape if it serves Euro-America and Japanese capitalists.

Obama is smiling at Tanzania, Central African Republic, Uganda, Rwanda, Mali and Madagascar to push back waves of Chinese greed for oil, gas, uranium, diamonds and tantalite. American soldiers are building health clinics in rural Tanzania to wipe out Nyerere's socialist legacy. He borrowed his election campaign strategy from practices and writings of Amilcar Cabral and Augustinho Neto. African politicians should take a look. His using government funds to rebuild America's roads, bridges, railways; supporting creativity by small scale industrialists, and subsidizing motor companies and tottering banks, must also be his charm-export to Africa when he comes in June.

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