29 June 2013

South Africa: Barack Obama and the Shadow of Madiba's Magic

Under almost any other circumstances, the arrival of Barack Obama would thoroughly dominate the local news cycle. But it is an irony that the critical condition of the man who first encouraged the young Obama to consider a career in politics has relegated his visit to a distant second place. 

Obama finished his time in Senegal, a moment that was supposed to celebrate the increasingly vigorous democratic space in that country and focus attention on the important theme of food security initiatives, only to find that a contentious American domestic issue had elbowed its way right into the planned story line.

During his press event with Senegalese president Macky Sall, the two US Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act - the law the prevented same sex unions from enjoying the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples - and this took front and centre instead.

In response, Obama found himself pressing Sall for better treatment for gay and lesbian Africans, only to hear that conservative African societies are not prepared to take such steps.

As the New York Times reported the event: “‘It's my personal belief, but I'm speaking now as a president not...

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