Africa Got Played by Obama, and Africans Are Eager to Turn the Obama Page, M. Frindéthié


Obama shaking hands with Ivorian dictator Ouattara

Obama’s politics—though criticized by neocons as being far below the standards of the West’s general politics and as disappointing as it can be to the most bellicose wing of the confrontational society that the West is—actually falls within the West’s politics of domination by all means, even leads the West’s politics of hegemony, which is itself supported by the belief that the West incarnates truth itself. Under Obama’s bellicose politics and drone mania, the Euro-American world has outclassed any other society known to man in its taste for iron and blood. Here, the West’s inhumanity is performed at an industrial level. America’s warmongers should not worry about Obama failing them, for he is really and truly a son of America, chosen by America to carry on America’s tradition of hubris and condescension. And Obama applies himself very well to his task. America should not be afraid of Obama’s skin complexion. His mind and his soul are entirely devoted to implementing the most violent brand of Americanism. To borrow these words from Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte, “[Obama] has only listened to the voices that shout loudest, and it’s all those reckless rightwing forces. It’s almost criminal.”

“Almost criminal” is an understatement. We might even argue that, anxious to comfort America, keen on easing America’s fear that he might be a wrench in the works, Obama has gone far and beyond the call for proving himself, exhibiting toward African leaders the same contempt and patronizing attitude that he is shown at home by white racists. It is not America, even less the West, that Obama has disappointed. It is Africa that Obama has disillusioned. And, on June 28, 2013, as Nelson Mandela was taking his last breaths of air in a Pretoria hospital where Obama was scheduled to call on him, about 200 South African union workers and students wanted to drive home their dissatisfaction with a man upon whom Africa had placed so much unmet expectation. As deplored Khomotso Makola, a 19-year-old law student, “We had expectations of America’s first black president. Knowing Africa’s history, we expected more. He has come as a disappointment, I think Mandela too would be disappointed and feel let down.”

Rudy Giuliani laments,

I do not believe … that [Obama] loves America … He doesn’t love you, and he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, through love of this country … This is an American President I’ve never seen before … I do not detect in this man the same rhetoric, the same language, the same love of America that I detect in other American Presidents, including democrats… . I have doubts about his emotion, his feelings, his attitude, and the way in which he developed.

And we are tempted to ask: in whose name do you really think Obama goes around destroying the world? In whose name has Obama condoned the destruction of Egypt, Libya, and the Côte d’Ivoire if not in the name of American exceptionalism? Have no fear, Rudy! Disown him not, for, as said David Axelrod, “Barack Obama knows who he is.” He is a proud son of America. Obama is a proud product of American exceptionalism. Obama does love America. It is rather Africa that Obama does not love. However, is one to love exclusively one part of oneself and disdain the other? Can one who is both African and American love America if, and only if, one is able to disdain Africa? As for us, we have always been wary of the Obama fever that had seized the world in 2008.

From the very first, many intellectuals of African descent had assumed that Obama would be good for Africa because of his ancestry. We had refrained from falling prey to this politics of color, though we had hoped, just for the sake of Africa, that the Obamanians would be right. Without being anti–

Obamanian, we found the circumstances of Obama’s rise to power to be too cosmetic and his campaign speeches to be too dramatically crafted to have any bearing on the real. So, we remained pessimistic. And when President Clinton remarked that “the whole thing looked like a fairy tale,” we tended to agree with him while still wishing to be proven wrong. Nevertheless, as time passed, we started wondering, among other things, whether President Obama had a perceptible African policy. We desperately looked for something concrete to point to, beyond Obama’s speeches or the exegetical exercises of Obamanians that would give us the full measure of the American President’s genuine interest in the development of the African continent. And many of the Africans who prayed for his election, who cried tears of joy at his inauguration, are also waiting to see genuine gestures of encouragement. But time is passing, Obama is now a few months to the end of his second term, and nothing positive is happening for Africa.

Of course, President Obama had given a memorable speech in Accra in July 2009, had hosted a lunch for two dozen African leaders and greeted young African “leaders” in Washington. Of course, he had honored a Zimbabwean women’s group with the Robert H. Kennedy Prize for Political Courage. Of course, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice had trotted around Africa and, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton had almost toured the continent. But do these routines amount to a clear African policy? In fact, when submitted to scrutiny, Obama’s actions run counter to Obama’s declared policy for Africa, and they counter his faith in diplomacy such as that rehearsed by Secretary of State Clinton in front of the Senate ForeignRelations Committee on January 13, 2009:

The president- elect has made it clear that in the Obama administration there will be no doubt about the leading role of diplomacy. One need only look to North Korea, Iran, the Middle East and the Balkans to appreciate the absolute necessity of tough- minded, intelligent diplomacy—and the failures that result when that kind of diplomatic effort is absent …President- elect Obama has emphasized that the

State Department must be fully empowered and funded to confront multidimensional challenges—from working with allies to thwart terrorism to spreading health and prosperity in places of human suffering … We will lead with diplomacy because it’s the smart approach. But we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary, and we will rely on it to protect our people and our interests when and where needed, as a last resort.

Yet, war, which Obama has favored in several African countries as solution, is the antithesis of diplomacy. War does not spread health and prosperity in places of human suffering. And in Africa, Obama has not led by diplomacy. In Africa, Obama has been a warlike president whose bellicose politics has spread misery and suffering to the most vulnerable. It would be gravely dishonest to pretend that after the passage of Obama’s war machines in Libya, Egypt, and Côte d’Ivoire, these countries are better off than they used to be. No honest mind can say that Obama has brought democracy to Libya, Egypt, and Côte d’Ivoire or that the daily violence and human rights abuses in these countries since Obama’s intervention indicate democracy. That is why Africans cannot wait to turn the Obama page.


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