– Africa’s hope dashed by this son of an African –
Africa quickly learnt that it makes no sense whether the president of the USA is “black” or “white”, America’s personal interest remains paramount.
Hence the disappointment of many Africans with Obama, the son of a Kenyan father, who literally means nothing for Africa in this epoch. Were Africans wrong to have had these expectations? What fuelled these expectations?
As the first term of Barack Obama America’s 44th President swiftly draws to an end Africans from Cape to Cairo, from Ghoree Bay to Nairobi ask what sense to make of an Obama Presidency in African context. Perhaps Africans like many of similar ancestry in the USA misunderstood the election of Obama as a moment of significance that would finally bring the conflicting dialectical tensions and realities of either domestic America or Africa to the centre of the table. Perhaps Africans assumed out of their desperate plight and pain that the gods smiled on them in bringing one of them to the highest office in global context.
Was such a hope a justified or a misplaced hope? I dare assert the answer is not an either or but maybe evident in both. Let me firstly deal with the justified aspect of this hope. For centuries of a world its economic systems and industrialisation and now lately what we term the globe, the issues of Africa’s legitimate and rightful claims against those who committed savagery and violently abusing her remains unheard.
The continuing robbery, rape, abuse legitimised by the triple chains of racism, discrimination and exploitation wrapped in the insidious blanket of colonialism inflicted by a Eurocentric-dictated-interest go on unabated. This colonialism in which Africans became black, savages, uncivilized ones, kafirs, barbarians who need to be subdued and classically re-conditioned into a Western mind of civilisation is a stubborn enemy refusing to let go.
Africa this vast continent became the space and place where a mineral bereft Europe could stake its claim, build its infrastructure from and web a synapses of economic denial for those of darker melanin skin tone, while they walk off with the minerals and its wealth. The savagery and looting never stopped as recent as 2012, when newly appointed UN special envoy Thabo Mbeki made the UN commission aware of the billions of dollars that leaves Africa in illegally and illegitimate manner.
This looting that started centuries ago is going ahead unabated, and cocooned by a sense of economic means justified for some, yet the result of this is a begging Africa, a disrespected Africa if its African Union and due ancillary structures are not afforded the same status of for example a European Union.
The disrespect has affected the psychology of the African mind as Frantz Fanon and later Steve Biko would late lament in analysis. The perennial abuse, rape and injustices done to Africa at times abetted by African leadership held hostage by power and money has rendered Africa the plight of the world when it receives as high as 46% of all foreign donations for the basics that makes up life.
This observed and experienced reality has given birth to Nkrumah and others who in condemnation of this abuse called for an African – Renaissance when Africans find their own solutions for Africa’s problems in claiming its space in the globe. Hence the justification of this hope for a deliberate change in Western thinking in the global context with the election of Barack Hussein Obama, fuelled by itself that hope that finally Africa’s challenges and Africa’s case against the world in the court of the universe could be heard.
A second reason why Africans in general expected a change of heart in Western and global thinking on Africa resonates in this that Africans out of its DNA identifies with Africans, in a sense in borderless defiance of geographic confinement and a boundary-less interpretation of identity. Out of such psyche it would naturally celebrate an Obama election, as a victory for Africa be it in symbolism or anticipated praxis.
Hence the expectations raised, particularly when they assume the pain of Africa needs no explanation to a fellow African, it’s similar agony needed not be taught for those who claim and African ancestry and background regardless of how many centuries ago. Nor does its legitimate legal case and claim to a Law Professor from Harvard.
The misunderstanding part resonates in this that Africans be they in the Diaspora or on the continent misunderstood not out of stupidity or ignorance the election of Obama as truly an American President from a normal American Party context, participating in an almost century long twin-party definition of Democrat and Republican definition.
This is a critical point to consider, one cannot separate Obama as USA president from being a Democrat. In the USA, Democrats and Republicans represents respectively liberal and conservative stances. It is worthy to note that perhaps these two simplistic descriptions of the two parties holds many including party members immured to always act in the parameters of such definition.
Obama therefore did not bring his favourite shooting-hoop to the White house as anybody other than a liberal. This liberal agenda exemplified in Democratic Party idealism is what made and equally affords Obama his presidency. If he therefore governs or leads it must be understood from this undeniable reality that he serves as the nomination of a liberal party, making it impossible to invoke or exact a nationalist agenda on him.
If Africa will count in the 21 century African thinkers long ago agreed it must pursue a nationalist agenda in which a sense of brotherhood need to prove preeminent and the identifying of a common enemy the path to freedom.
Africans therefore and more so those who think from a Renaissance model and idealism knows Obama by himself can never do anything for Africans what Africans cannot do for themselves. Africans in general may misunderstand the election of Obama in a historic water-shed somewhat romantic and universally change aimed moment. Yet Africans in particular those who know understands his ascendance to the White House whilst a euphoric moment in history, remains that for Americans but does so with no relatedness of expectation to interpret any meaningful change for the continent that produced human life.
One may advance a litany of equally important reasons for such misunderstanding contention, yet that is not the premise and focus this article attempts to argue.
This brings us to the question what then could be the legitimate measured expectation Africans and equally the Arab world had of Obama?
If Hillary Clinton is today dispatched on a whirlwind of an 11 day Africa pit-stop campaign for Obama’s new Africa strategy of promoting development by stimulating economic growth, advancing peace and security and strengthening democracy, we must ask how serious this can be taken when Africa never featured for the son of African, occupying the White House since January 2009. How serious can this be taken when Africa’s grandson never came home (Perhaps the title of a future book – Obama the African Son who never came home)
Perhaps we must nail our colours to the mast and categorically assert what we expected, because in the absence of such, we may be misunderstood even castigated to have wrongly assumed his role and initiatives through a lens of unjustified entitlement less by reason.
We expected Obama to attempt out if his Africaness to link back and make these connections that history has allowed to course through his veins. It could not be but easy because looking into that mirror every morning when he readies himself compels one to acknowledge what you see. It could not have been that difficult because the eyes he look into as the love of his life understands this African agony that followed her ancestral lines from somewhere in West Africa and still haunts in Watts, Harlem, Detroit etc.
We expected Obama to attempt out of the giftedness of an undeniable intellect afforded. We expected Obama out of his epistimological cravity, the global context and moment afforded to not only comprehend, but to attempt leadership on the critical issues that ensembles the African Agenda. We did not expect him to be our spokesman or to fight our battles because that Africans through centuries of struggle know best, as can be found from that Old Testament text when Moses the chosen and anointed servant who married a ‘black’ women, appeals to Cush his brother-in-law to lead them Cush can be our eyes – knows the way.
We expected his foreign diplomacy to accommodate the Africa and Arab-World’s different than those before, because this moment in international sense demands this difference in thinking, comprehension, leading and attempting. We expected him to take Africa more serious because his family is still in Kenya.
We expected Obama to surpass his predecessor in Democratic Presidency William Jefferson Clinton, affectionately remembered as the first black president. What sets a Clinton apart was not his blackness of melanin, but his grasp to understand and use the very Democratic Party platform to attempt, what was impossible. Clinton, as irresponsible as some may think he was for allowing a situation to be subjected to an impeachment hearing, attempted to hear Africa in its domestic (African – American) or international (Africa) definition. He understood the tough choices he had to make; his epistemology afforded him to attempt the tough Middle -East question in bringing its conflicting leaders Yasser Arafat and Yitshak Rabin to talks. He knew how to bring these opposing troublesome context forces together not because he had a predecessor who showed him how, but because he knew the moment demanded nothing less. It hence it can be safely concluded, under his presidency the world came the closest to seeing the Middle -East question being dealt with.
Clinton’s deliberate expenditure on the domestic front on affirmative action and other empowerment programmes attests to his leadership, rendering him the forever darling of African- America. His engagements and numerous visits too many parts of Africa proved his willingness to listen and learn from Africans shaping his foreign diplomacy agenda as that which was attempting to give Africa its space, he equally helped in the many aid programmes.
Notice the operative word is he attempted. Notwithstanding the fact that some may counter argue my assertion and say you can’t compare Clinton and Obama because their economic climates are distinctly different. That as valid a point is no reason for Obama to end his second term without having attempted to help the African agenda. Africans did not want any miracles but having had a Clinton attempt it expected an Obama to attempt even better.
In a previous article I lament Obama’s choice and preference for a Eurocentric Foreign diplomacy focus, in which he sought to harness and built on the platforms and vein that his predecessor George W. Bush set as was seen with his close links to the United Kingdom’s Tony Blair. Obama rightly or wrongly appeared more at home in enjoying his personal Irish home-coming if kinship, more than his low key African visit. In fact Obama lacked the capacity to discern the need to visit Africa to learn from its people and its leaders. It is said the White House incumbent refuse to come to South Africa because in his last visit as senator he felt snubbed by the Former Presiden of SA Thabo Mbeki. So Michelle, comes but Obama does not preferring to have side meetings at Davos and G8 gatherings with Africa’s leaders.
Obama clearly had not spent enough time learning from Africans, which in a sense has robbed him from having a foreign diplomacy handle or focus with Africa as key, not just for him personally but as forecasted by many economists and those who in search of a response to a crumbling capitalist system asks where next. He has not proved cognisant of the current encouraging economic growth patterns emerging in Africa, the regional stabilities fragile in some circles, and the enthrenchment of good governance that meanders through Africa. These in the larger sense attest to this future destiny of Africa. The clear democratic stance adopted for governance that more and more dispels the coup-de-tats for which Africa became wrongly known for, is pointing to its future role. Not only the aforementioned aspects but the researched facts that Africa still holds vaults of mineral resources and some argue even more than what was stolen over centuries.
Perhaps Africans must accept Obama, does not view Africa as Africans romantically view him. In one of a very few interviews on Africa he gave with SABC anchor Sherwin Bryce Peace, Obama’s only word to Africa and its leaders was in typical Big Brother mind of ‘stop your corruption’.
This summarises the mindset of America’s 44th president on Africa, in the end it does not matter for Africans if Obama gets a second term or not, it is immaterial in the greater scheme of things.
Hence dispatching Hillary Clinton to Africa three months before the nominations for the Presidential elections are finalised and hearing her message to Africans confirms again the man in the White House is less concerned about Africa, and do not see Africa the emerging cog of future economic development and global redefine a global player that warrants him attempting to show interest in shaping his personal legacy on such attempt. Hillary’s trip is again the typical window dressing of election making to bolster the contention contrary to the ever-fumbling in foreign policy articulation Mitt Romney; Obama can thus claim he has a foreign policy on Africa.
Obama is as African as he is not African and Africans must quit demanding from this domestic president a foreign diplomacy comprehension and concomitant equal action that would confirm notwithstanding his liberal party that he ever would attempt as I already postulated.
In the end it does not ever matter anymore if America has as 45th president in ‘black’ or ‘white’ a man, come January 20, 2013, as long as he does not attempt, Africans will have to continue their solitary slug in a biased world where its legitimate credit remains unsettled, its claim unanswered, it’s case unheard and its future equally denied, reduced to the backbench of insignificance.
Let me then also confess, there was a time I stood proud in January 2009, in Los Angeles California, addressing Church groups, commented and debated finally Africa may see more than the Bill Clinton celebrated attempt. If you asked me then who I wanted to enjoy a great hour in conversation I would have said easily Barack Hussein Obama. I felt this way even after I met his spiritual father Dr. Jeremiah Wright, undeniably a brilliant mind and equally engaged him, I still wanted to meet Obama.
Yet today I know perhaps the only USA President I would pay to have an hour of thought-provoking engagement remains William Jefferson Clinton, for in my books he attempted what Obama dismally FAILED.
It is right here that the famous quote “Black man you on your own “ finds new meaning as I afford myselfe poetic licence to add, African- American in Inglewood, you on your own, Africa you are on your own, have no hopes for it makes no difference if it’s Obama or Romney, Africa is not on the incumbent White House’s agenda, it certainly was not from the time George W. Bush was sworn in until now. It does not look it will be in the foreseeable future regardless who takes the oath, come January 20, 2013.
It makes no difference who occupies the White House ‘black’ or ‘white’ unless he is willing to attempt, the error of Obama, I hold is he never attempted.
Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
An Independent Commentator,
Authored: Preach a Storm Live a Tornado, – A Theology of Preaching 2011
Through the Prism of my Soul – Political Commentary and Analysis 2011
This article appears courtesy: ‘Tradewinds are Blowing’ – Political Commentary & Musings
Due October 2012
August 3, 2012