Obama in Africa (again)

Back in July (yep, a very long time ago), I blogged about Obama’s visit to Kenya and the response from a journalist called Andrew Mwenda. I’ve since read lots of further really interesting articles and viewpoints on the topic, which I’m keen to share with you, both those that further my points, and challenge them.

As a recap, here’s a short excerpt of Andrew’s argument:

To use Jean Bricmont’s analogy from his book Humanitarian Imperialism, the US and Western Europe behave like a mafia godfather who, as he grows old, decides to defend law and order and begins to attack his lesser colleagues in crime, preaching brotherly love and the sanctity of human life – all the while holding onto his ill-gotten wealth and the income it generates.

And here are just two of the many other responses I’ve read and found interesting since:

Minna Salami (MsAfropolitan): When Obama addressed the African Union

Trade and development partnerships are the modern-day version of England’s indirect rule, a continuation of a painfully dark history of exploitation. To name only a few, there’s the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA), which Obama mentioned and which considering that it creates 100,000 jobs in the US ought to be called the “American Growth and Opportunities Act”; the New Alliance Cooperation Framework through which African nations legitimise the theft of natural resources to for profit corporations under the aegis of “private sector investment plans”; the “Pan-African initiative”, or PanAf as it deceptively locally sounds, was set up by the EU to improve trade, observe elections, run governance initiatives, yada yada – it just so happens that African states are forced to tie a large portion of their markets to Europe in exchange. There’s also the rather sinisterly named “Trade Africa“, which boosts intra-African trade, not a bad thing per se, but what does the US get in return? Well, how about a million bucks.

Read the full article here.

Patience Akumu: Why Obama doesn’t understand the lust for power of our African leaders

To African leaders, Obama’s solutions for Africa are untenable. They view him as detached from the challenges and realities of an African leader. For starters, this African son has one wife and no known concubines. No wonder he comes up with wayward ideas such as educating more African women. Does he know how hard it would be to convince a scientist, engineer or entrepreneur to become a second wife? Does he know how many legal cases African countries would have to deal with if most of the masses – whose human-rights violations nosy organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International do not tire of reporting – were educated and employed rather than hungry and destitute?

The reality is that these African leaders do not realise that their argument that human rights, dignity and democracy are a western concept force-fed to the African continent no longer holds water. Its demise happened around the time when Bakayoko, the protagonist in Senegalese writer Ousmane Sembène’s God’s Bits of Wood, declared that dignity, good food, water and housing, are not for white people – they are for people. The notion that human rights and democracy – the kind that Obama speaks about – are not African was stripped of all legitimacy when African leaders, evoking the universal declaration of human rights and drawing inspiration from the French and American revolutions, demanded self governance and equality. They made these demands in English, French, Portuguese and other languages that their tyrants would understand. With their sweat and blood, they adopted human rights, made them African and used these ideals to liberate the continent from colonialism. It is baffling that these same people now dare to reject such ideals as being foreign. With worrying nostalgia, some Africans of an older generation will tell you that colonialism was so much better than the governments they live under. If African leaders cared, it is this kind of talk that would keep them up at night and push them to do whatever it takes to perform better.

Read the full article here.

What do you think? Do you agree with Minna, Patience, or Andrew?


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