Does President Obama care for Africa?

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In June 2009, I wrote an article complaining that President Obama is ignoring Africa. It appears that he will go down with no legacy unlike George Bush with campaign to fight Aids, or Kennedy with the launch of the Peace Corps, that many Ethiopians benefited from. Besides establishing drone bases and dropping a few bombs in Somalia, Obama has nothing to show so far.

What is bedeviling Africa is poor leadership and dictators? President George Bush gave more lip service or spoke than Obama in promoting democracy in Africa.  Africa has all the resources to be a politically stable and economically viable continent if it were not for the prevalence of corruption and dictators from Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea,

His primary focus has been in the Middle East and Afghanistan. He appears genuinely interested in disentangling the deeply rooted political problems of the Middle East and improving Muslim and Arab relations with America; however, can all this be at the expense of Africa?

The gross human rights violation in Africa pale to that of the Middle East and the plight of 800 million African masses remains totally in the back burner. President Obama has seen many of the leaders of the Middle East and has denounced the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and more but he has yet to fire any warning shot to the dictators of Africa.

President Obama is perceived as a transformation figure in Africa, as well as in the rest of the world. It will be a historical disaster if he does not take bold steps to transform Africa; most of all help it get rid of its worst enemy, the unaccountable, unelected and murderous dictators and vigorously promote the establishment of democratic foundation.

The old paradigm in the United States is that Africa is hopeless as it struggles with a massive epidemics, famine and ethnic conflicts often fanned by its own leaders, as in the case of Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo and others. To totally ignore the continent would imperil hundreds thousands of U.S. jobs, approximately 20 percent of Africa’s oil supply and an emerging market of close to a billion consumers.

Unfortunately, failure by the Bush administration to vigorously promote democracy promoted a number of dictators to emerge especially in East Africa with potential economic and political disaster for the region and the world. President Bush was more motivated in fighting terrorism than promoting democracy in the region.  However, dictatorship is the seed for terrorism, but most western leaders ignore it at their own peril.

Total ambivalence under President Bush and winning and dinning of Africa’s dictators by President Clinton has progressively made the plight of African people worse. The death, destruction, the suffering and the gross human rights violations arising from conflicts in Darfur, Somalia, Congo,  Gambela, Chad and other places far exceed the level of suffering experienced in the Middle East or Asia minor.

Raging ethnic tension primarily instigated by the divide and conquer policy of ruling oligarchy, combined with corruption and misapplication of resources are slowly killing the economy and the political viability of the continent. The biblical suffering in many countries, primarily manmade disasters have gotten so bad, a Marshall Plan is necessary to save Africa from political and economic collapse.

Currently, besides the political oppression, and ethnic tensions, some regimes have strangled the people and the economy through government ownership of land, Internet, telephone, and other vital industries leading to massive unemployment.

Some of the culprits in this case, the dictators, only thrive and survive with U.S. largesse. For example, the regimes in Ethiopia will go by the wayside without massive U.S. aid. This gives the U.S. tremendous advantage to force democratic and economic changes in the continent.

Human rights records in many African countries are abysmal and are well documented by Amnesty International, the U.S. Congress, Human rights Watch, and independent media. Last year, some of the African dictators such as the one in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Eritrea appeared along with North Korean dictator in the Dictators of the Month Magazine. Unfortunately, in Washington leaders like the late Ethiopian dictator, Meles Zenawi were wined and dined, as they disguise their “vicious dictatorship” by ingratiating themselves with the U.S. State Department and by hiring high power lobbyist using the money collected from the impoverished people of Africa. According to Ken Silverstein of Harper Magazine, Ethiopia spends $50,000 a month to make sure Washington does not notice the cruel and evil system and to portray the regime incorrectly anti-terrorist and democratic.

President Obama has also to avoid past pitfalls. In his book Out of America: a Black Man Confronts Africa, journalist Keith Richburg rebukes some African-Americans for being too cozy with African dictators who bring untold misery to their own people.

In the Sudan, the U.S. should push vigorously for the genocide and war crime prosecution of Dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir and ratification of 1998 Rome treaty, which established the International Criminal Court . The successful prosecution of Milosevic and Charles Taylor demonstrated that nobody even a head of state is not above the law.

To his credit, George Bush stemmed the tide of AIDs in Africa; Bill Clinton pretended to be the first Black President, despite his failure to stop the Rwandan Genocide. On the other hand, there is nothing to brag about Obama as far as his contribution to the welfare or the transformation of blacks in America or in Africa.

It might be that his hands are tied, but not for lack of empathy. Either way, there will be no legacy for Obama to brag about, except that he is the only mixed or black president, which is historic on its own.

I am sure President Obama can rise to the challenge if he dared too. Pushing democratic values and correct economic development strategies are critical to save the continent. With an investment of $13.3 billion under the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1952, President Truman provided a lifeline to a devastated Europe and created strong ally for the U.S. At the end of the Marshall Plan in 1952, Europe recorded the fastest economic growth in history.

President Obama has the option to embark on a bold political and economic agenda by vigorously promoting democracy, and economic agenda, while opening a huge market three times that of Europe for American businesses.

Dula Abdu, originally from Africa, is a U.S-based writer on foreign policy (note article was adopted from 2009 article from a similar topic).


Post Title: Does President Obama care for Africa?
Author: dula
Posted: 27th June 2013
Filed As: Events, Human Rights
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