Saturday, December 5, 2009

Obama should apologize to Africa

5 December 2009
Prince Prah

This is a continuation of my feature which appeared on this website on 31st October, 2009 titled “The Anti-African Racist Insults Obama Got Away With In Ghana”. I enjoyed the bashing from all of you and I know we are sharing opinions. Enjoy reading.

Obama apologised to Europe during his trip to France in April 2009. He was apologetic to the Arab world in his speech in Cairo, Egypt. But during his trip to Ghana he opined that Africans are responsible for their multifarious problems and said: “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these (Africa’s) problems on others”. Obama did not have the courage to admit and take full responsibility for the role of America in the undoing of the continent.

When Obama travelled to Europe in April 2009, in a speech in France he said, “In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive... So I've come to Europe this week to renew our partnership, one in which America listens and learns from our friends and allies...So let me say this as clearly as I can: America is changing”.

Obama sounded apologetic to the Arab world when he travelled to Egypt. He said: “We meet at a time of great tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate...More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim—majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations...I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect”.

But when Obama travelled to Ghana in July 11, 2009, he said: “It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for these (Africa’s) problems on others. Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants”.

Obama did not have the courage to admit and take full responsibility for the role of America in the undoing of the continent.

Some American States like Virginia have apologised to Black Americans for the slave trade because undoubtedly the slave trade benefited America and was promoted by the United States government. For a long period of time Washington D.C. actually served as the chief port through which slaves were imported.

The Southern region of the United States paid for slaves to be brought over. The Southern plantation owners were supplied with their money from Northern industrialists who knew exactly how the South was growing cotton at so cheap a price. For at least 80 years of its existence the U.S. government condoned and allowed the slavery to flourish.

Yes Obama said, “Africa's future is up to Africans”, But at the root of the current crisis in Africa is surely the Slave trade, Colonialism, neo-colonialism, American imperialism, trade imbalances, the support for corruption and exploitation of Africa by American multi-national companies.

As Obama himself admitted: “I say this knowing full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world. I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story”.

Obama said in Cairo: “each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions”, but America and the West has not allowed African democracy to evolve on its own.

But in so many ways and in so many times, they have interfered in Africa’s development – by sponsoring coups especially the one against Dr. Kwame Nkrumah which I know off and there may be many across the African continent.

Barack Obama said in Ghana: “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources”, but what he failed to add was the role of western and American companies in fuelling these conflicts.

Obama is right when he said: “development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa's potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans”.

However, let us not forget that at the root of Africa’s predicament are the tri-partite combination of Bad leadership, Rich Countries exploitation of Africa and the imposition of wrong policies by international Institutions.

Doing a little research work, I came across Malawi which is a case in point. Not quite long ago a New York Times article describes how Malawi went from food aid recipient to regional food provider in just two years after re-introducing fertilizer subsidies for its low-income farmers. The move contravened years of policy guidance from the World Bank and IMF, which warn against such distortions of the “free market.”

In other words, by violating what its wealthy benefactors in Europe and North America say, Malawi achieved success.

Unfortunately for Ghana, the British and American imposition has produced semi-literate leaders that went against better counsel and imposed world Bank/IMF prescribed Structural Adjustment Programme that ruined our economy.

Obama has come and gone, the speech is classic and the rhetoric is exceptional. But the best way to test whether he would be different from other American presidents is to explore the question of African strategic interests, or, alternatively, American strategic interests in Africa, and examine the ways in which and the degree to which Obama's pursuit of American policy is consistent with or diverges from that of his predecessor.

For example: Africom was established during George W. Bush's regime, will the Barack Hussein Obama's regime continue with Africom? What about the interest of American oil companies in Angola, Equatorial Guinea, the Niger Delta and even ours? Will an Obama regime move against their interest vis-à-vis African environmental, economic and political interest?

In Obama’s speech in Ghana, did he comment on Barclays Bank establishing a tax haven in Ghana, warning against such vehicle being used for tax evasion and money laundering; in support of transparency and anti-corruption efforts, to expand cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing and reigning in the vicarious liability of tax havens and offshore banks.

Did he talk about pushing the boundaries of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (passed by the US Congress before his tenure) to have the expanded power to bite both givers and takers of bribes – both American multi-national countries and kleptomaniac African leaders?

Did he talk about stopping and Withdrawing US Visa from corrupt African politicians; to stop them spending their looted funds in America; Stopping the marketplace for high stakes elite bribery?

To many, the Bush personality was a bit too crude and, in some respects, robust for the world to accept. Put some colour on him, with a sophisticated and intelligent personality, and now you have the same agenda for Africa, skilfully repackaged in an Obama. The agenda remains the same-imperialistic, exploitative, and, ultimately, deadly-but the general perception is different. It is seductive.

Source: Prince Prah

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