Obama and the things he is yet to speak on when celebrating Mandela


Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th USA president is in town to deliver the keynote address at the Madiba Centenary Celebrations.

This moment compels us to reflect on a very sombre time five years earlier marked as December 5th, 2013, when arguably one of the world’s noblest sons and perhaps the modern-day epitome of humanity exchanged mortality for immortality.

Back then the world stood aghast whilst readying to converge to attend the home-going of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. In record time a 10-day period of mourning to mark his death was announced and by the 5th day, I like many others found myself in Suite 71, earmarked for the accredited religious persons to attend the State Memorial at FNB stadium, South of Johannesburg.

This was an occasion graced by 91 former and present presidents, with an even larger contingent of 103 Governments who also came to pay due to honour to Mandela. The list of speakers a crossbreed of friends, foes, enemies, and celebrity politicians honoured to speak on this occasion says more of the mosaic of a Mandela.

It was on this occasion that Barack H. Obama acted as the first of eight renowned people afforded to speak, the same dovetailed with an epic fulfilment of who Mandela is with the ageing Raul Castro of Cuba paying homage to a friend.

Obama gave without any doubt perhaps the address of the day, in sterling gifted oratory skills and aptitude cloaking this rendition in personalizing his Mandela celebration.

There is no question that he had the crowd salivating for more, and for days after that, his speech was discussed argued deliberated on various platforms of social networks, print media, and television broadcasts.

In the aftermath, we were informed that a Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and freedom of information activist (FOIA) Ryan Shapiro, in the USA, was then heading to court to force the CIA to reveal or declassify documents admitting its role in the capturing of Mandela at Howick in 1962. Shapiro has repeatedly requested records mentioning Mandela from the archives of the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the FBI.

This and other issues necessitates upon us to ask in this season did Obama not miss an opportunity to set the record straight on perhaps critical issues. Notwithstanding the brilliance of his address, in the world’s accepted favoured accent.

I back then asked did Obama not miss the opportunity to set things right, I ask again will Obama today address some pertinent issues he hitherto has failed to engage.
Permit me to enumerate eights things I have been mulling over, which I thought Obama could and should have reflected upon. I equally hold the hope that today he might heed my call to respond to these matters in an unequivocal sense.

  1. Will Obama today admit the involvement of the CIA in Mandela’s capturing in Howick as a true historical fact. Will he, own up to the fact that the man he and 3 former USA presidents came to honour in December 2013 could potentially have been killed by the work and hand of a previous USA government.
  2. I thought Obama could have spared a thought to actualise the grave implications for this act particularly since then as the USA considers itself the bastion of democracy. He perhaps may have deliberated on the challenge and anomalies of democracy and its often-reaped fruit, which many times do not reflect the human values of a Mandela. This thinking resonates at another level to solicit acknowledgement that it was a democratically elected USA government that shared in stark contrast to the espoused democratic principles a symbiotic and cosy relationship with an Apartheid state heresy. An apartheid system that had as fundamental axis racism, breathing discrimination and came exemplified in segregation with a resultant effect of the debasement of an African dignity.
  1. Will Obama today concede or even allude to the fact that it was the USA multi-nationals and their narrow interest and corporates that fought against the cause for which Mandela became the “black pimpernel” in underwriting the discrimination of opportunity and resource for those of more melanin content. An unambiguous acknowledgement of this at this the demise of his hero, and even now the centenary celebrations could be pragmatic if not redeeming.
  2. Will Obama refer to the fact that Mandela like so many others until very recently still reflected as a ‘terrorist’ on the intelligence of USA radar? Perhaps an acknowledgement of how short-sighted the USA was in not recognising the man he came to celebrate and for which the globe only had personal and collective veneration was served a grave injustice in this fashion by none other than the USA. Will Obama in this season rectify his earlier missed opportunity and take collective responsibility for this injustice in pragmatism thus attempting to fix the past in establishing a future. After all, he was and remains Obama the 44th President of the USA.
  1. Will Obama spare a moment to reflect on the USA’s role in an Angola – Namibia (South West Africa back then). The late Fidel Castro Cuba’s former president before his death took us down an epic journey. This soul-cleansing of rear-view mirror opinion corroborated by facts and names mentioned in his article “Mandela is dead, don’t tell no lies about Apartheid” gives us a perspective less known. I had hoped Obama in his address back then and even in this season would nakedly engage the nature and actuality of the risks of those engagements at the time the error of such whilst arguing no different to a Martin Luther King Jr, on Vietnam ‘being a senseless war’. According to the records, the Apartheid South African regime was backed by the democratic USA in this instance. If anybody was capable of putting the record straight not in narrow defence of USA but in the balance of objectivity whilst owning up, this lanky son of a Kenyan father who brought his shooting – hoop to the White-House was the appropriate candidate. These are not facts too far removed from any USA president be it in historic precedent or experiential reflection.
  1. Will Obama on behalf of previous USA administrations apologise to the current ANC and its preceding leaderships for misunderstanding this organisation not as liberation organisation but as a ‘terrorist’ group? Jogging the memory of this 106-year-old movement in highs and lows with a definitive undeniable reality of being a non-racial organisation could have helped in this celebration of a movement Mandela swore allegiance to beyond his death.
  2. Obama’s speech should equally acknowledge the fact that the ANC in almost 25 years of democracy upholds and maintains respect for its egalitarian SA constitution, the same it firstly produced and jealously guards in having shown a maturity to share common space for all in line with the reconciliation mantra of Mandela. He easily could have acknowledged that in 2004, the ANC with a 2/3 majority could have reinterpreted and altered the constitution to legally reflect what some feared possible if the intentions of the ANC were considered ambivalent on democracy. It should be easy for Obama to acknowledge the maturity of this Movement in consistently engendering the fundamental principles of democracy.
  3. Maybe Obama should acknowledge that his ascendance to USA White-House of political power inadvertently and automatically generated expectations justifiably and sentimentally in hopes from fellow Africans on the desired change in USA diplomacy as that which respects the legacy of a Mandela and his ilk evident in a greater sensitivity for Africa.

It appears whenever Obama addresses Africans it is to lecture them from a veiled place of aloofness. The one key interview with SABC anchor-man in Washington Sherwin Bryce-Peace confirmed this assertion.

The ‘black’ 44th President of the USA identifies easily with the power to pronounce on the thematic narrative of corruption which is justified, yet I have long postulated as is recorded in other pieces I have written, “…Obama’ the African fathered-son wrestles to come home to walk in the barefoot embrace of Africa in admitting the concomitant wrongs and evils committed by the West…”

There must be something worth questioning when Obama as the 44th President of the USA can lecture Africans and yet as an African cannot identify with Africans in this that Africa remains abused by the toxic concoction of a Euro-USA self-interest.

This constitutes perhaps the aspects lending legitimacy on the claim of a definitive missed opportunity the 44th and First African President of the USA had when he came to bury the many he today came to celebrate.

In April of 2016 US District Judge Christopher Cooper said it was clear which records Shapiro would like to review. “Regardless of how onerous it might be to locate them, there can be no dispute about which items are being requested – records in the CIA’s possession that mention Nelson Mandela or his three listed aliases,” with this we heard that Shapiro was edging closer to have access to the CIA files. We remain vigilant to follow the outcome of this as one of the many things Barack Hussein Obama may want to include in his address when Rolihlahla Mandela is celebrated in this season.

Madiba’s centenary celebrations call for more than great oratory skills, it is calling for an admission of wrong on the part of the USA in defiance of the ethics of Mandela. Will Obama help history and let us hear these admissions for he remains the best person to engage these in a time when we have no hope that his successor may ever have such repented heart.

So, Barack speak, today, just don’t lecture if you not willing to own up.

Teta’, Barak if you can let your feet meet the dust of Africa’s perpetual abuse.

Bua’ Hussein if yours is not to read Africans the riot act, but in humility to acknowledge you too have missed golden opportunities to set the record straight.

Maybe we never will hear these admissions ever in history to come, for the best opportunity to engage these stands here in Gauteng today may the occasion not again register a missed opportunity.

Clyde Ramalaine

Political Commentator & Writer


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