American African Policy & President Obama
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
With the recent election of Mr. Barack Obama as president of the United States of America, it is my view that America is finally living up to its constitutional promise of equality of her citizens; wither race, color or creed etc. America in doing so, has allowed herself, in Christian parlance, to be born again. America has now partially atoned for the enslavement of Africans, and complete disregard of a large chunk of her human capital.
America has, with this singular act of electing a person African descent, permitted itself of a rebirth and a renewal, and how wonderful it is, as it is happening regardless of the cynicism which have arisen as a consequence of the checkered history and plight or precarious predicaments of people of African descent in America; against all odds, and epochs of dashed expectations borne of harsh experience of African Americans.
Race or color of skin, have unfortunately been how life is lived in America, and racial terms and themes have been pervasive in America, but, a person of African descent is now slated to become the 44th president of the United States, and not a moment too soon, this, after these hundreds of years in America, by people of African descent. Mr. Obama until his election as president was the only senator of African descent, out of 100 US senators. Even though African Americans, constitute more than 13.4% or about 40.9 million out of the US total population of about 306 million, with Caucasians population of 221.3 or 74% of the US population respectively.
President-elect Barack Obama’s ascension is at once aesthetically pleasing; it has a very decorative value and a symbolism; as well as substance in relation to human progress in America and the entire world hence everyone is agog, over Mr. Obama’s election. As the world knows, Mr. Obama is a first generation American with an African immigrant father; this therefore fulfils the ideals of America as a melting pot and a land of infinite possibilities. America is fulfilling its promise and she is at the cusp of realizing her full potentials.
This progress is even perhaps more meaningful, above and beyond, for African Americans, continental Africans and all peoples of African descent, worldwide; It must be stated quickly though, that the advantages and dividends to these Africans, that is, African Americans and people of African descent , and to continental Africans remain to be evaluated. There is an inherent are-we-there-yet question, which must be answered.
Is a color blind world in sight? There those revisionists who are already asserting that with the election of Mr. Obama as president of the United States, people of African descent, continental Africans, and more particularly, African American should no longer seek Affirmative Action Programs etc, measures instituted to redress historical injustices and such enduring vestiges which have negatively impacted, and continues to impact African Americans. This sorts of thinking, is to say the least, jumping the gun!
Regarding continental Africans, it is the case that historically it has been fashionable, romantic and even sexy, for some in America, Europe and elsewhere outside Africa, to ostentatiously and conspicuously publicly analyze the human condition in Africa and of Africans and they proceed do nothing, even as they pompously and condescendingly present the beggar –charity-basket case as situations of Africa, and the savior role Americans, Europeans and other non-Africans must play to set Africa aright. But these have historically amounted to loud talk and no action.
Could Mr. Obama be the true lover of Africa, and a doer, who would speak softly and carry a big bank-wallet of ideas? Hence he has refrained from the usual loud but empty public proclamations about matters pertaining to Africa?
Africa has always been exploited and then neglected historically; Africa was variously exploited for her human resources during slave trade, then exploited for her natural resources post-slavery and during colonial period; Africa is now exploited for her bountiful natural and mineral and or energy resources and cheap labor.
Africans should be reminded of how Reagan and Thatcher supplied the lifeline oils which lubricated Apartheid South Africa, as America and Britain sustained Apartheid regime longer than was possible, through the warped policy known as constructive engagement.
Africans should be reminded of how liberation movements labeled terrorists by the US and the UK, the US under Reagan and the UK under Thatcher wanted liberation struggles in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe defeated. Those anti freedom, anti progress and anti democratic movement were eventually defeated. Lancaster House Agreement intended to provide economic relief and land redistribution-re-appropriation slated for post independence Zimbabwe were not adhered to; which in my view constitutes the origin sin, before today’s troubles in Zimbabwe.
What is new? Now, Obama is certainly not Reagan or Thatcher, so let us see? In some perverse sense, those like Reagan and Thatcher etc, with known aversion to fashioning humane and intelligent policies toward Africa and those apparent sworn aversion to happiness in Africa can be understood, as Africa is often said not to posses any national security or strategic interest to America and Europe, and needless to say then, therefore, Reagan, Thatcher etc or Sarah Palin, Governor of state of Alaska, vice presidential candidate for Senator John McCain, she it was said, who knew no distinctions between country and continent, when it comes to Africa, some make it plain that they have no stake in the outcome, or whatever become of our continent. So, what will Mr. Obama do differently?
The truth of the matter however, is, what affects Africa affects the world, whether it is an issue such as global warming, or Somali Pirates, the increasing costs of energy to power global economy or a genuine fight against extremism and terrorism, it is wiser to have a policy of all-for-one and one-for-all, a world of shared interrelationships and interconnectedness. It is hoped that people will stop seeing Africa as the inconvenient part of the global scheme of things
All eyes and ears are open regarding what would be President Obama US-African Policy; when Mr. Obama visited Berlin, Germany to the thunderous applause more than 100,000, I was elated that he, a person of African descent was receiving all the accolades and attention, which his campaign garnered here in the United States, and then, abroad as well. But, this was tempered by my wonder about where he stood on matters Africa.
President-elect Obama formally announced his run for presidency of the United States on February 11, 2007 and his African Policy remained nonexistent or terse at best, whereas, he was professorial and esoteric on Israel, the economy and Mr. Bush’s two foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. At the conclusion of the elections and Mr. Obama’s world acclaimed historic victory, led to more policy pronouncements on his part, and on the parts of those, with direct and indirect involvement Mr. Obama’s cabinet and White House staff selections.
And, former US Congressman and savvy political hand, tough political operative and tactician Mr. Rahm Israel Emanuel was selected by Mr. Obama to be his chief-of-staff, and Mr. Emanuel’s father in an unguarded statement, asserted that his son, will, as a matter of course, deeply influence a President Obama’s American-Israel policy; This led to a firestorm of criticisms, as part of the statement was pejorative of Arabs and, while creating the appearance that Mr. Obama will be hostage to his chief-of-staff regarding Israel Mr. Rahm Israel Emanuel was recently described by JTA.ORG as an
Attack-dog, policy wonk, enforcer and committed Jew
This incident is led me to revive what have been my publicized worry and wonder about President-elect Obama’s unstated/understated and generalized, or hazy stance, regarding what will be his US-African Policy, and what exactly in real or specific terms, his forthcoming administration’s African Policy would be or put in another way, why exactly was that not apparent or spelt-out, during the campaigns, as were other policies repeatedly mentioned in contemplation for a would be the United States African Policy during President Obama’s administration?
Should Africans and people of African descent just assume that the Africa and the Caribbean would receive better or favorable attention, and treatment, unlike what has been the case in the past? Should continental Africans and peoples of African descent have reasons now, to heave sigh of relief? Would this lead to more expectation fatigue?
Should very public demands be made? Should we be upfront like every other interest group? Or discreet lobbying is preferred? This puts in context, the Rahm Emanuel’s father’s statements regarding what would be America Policy in relation to Israel.
During the campaigns, Senator Obama, as he then was, visited and toured Europe (Berlin, London and Paris etc) He then visited Israel etc all well and good; but no visit to any part of Africa and no mention of what would be his US African Policy.
During the campaigns, I was enthralled and enthusiastic about Mr. Obama’s candidacy and the positive ramifications; when Mr. Obama won, I cried tears of joy, I entered euphoria and trance-like state and I remain ecstatic about the endless possibilities for America and the, all inspired by Mr. Obama victory and eventual governance; even still, I recognize that enormous economic and political challenges lay ahead, I recognize as well that color and racism in America have not suddenly ended or died and so, it not time just yet to go ahead on, to a fishing vacation.
During the campaigns leading to the elections, I can understand at the time, if some thought Africa was a delicate or even inappropriate distraction for candidate Obama, an issue that could have been amply exploited by his opponents and detractors. But, elections are over now, the Obama presidency policy-positions are being set on crucial issues; and besides, the candidate was emphatic about Israel, just as emphatic and matter-of-factly like the senior Mr. Emanuel
I am wondering whether there is a pattern here or why is Israel recurring? As it were during the campaigns and now, soon after the elections as well. The Reverend Jesse Jackson is not Mr. Obama’s father; he was not part of Mr. Obama’s campaign nor was he Mr. Obama’s Foreign Policy guru! And yet, a scathing and scalding article was published in the New Post Newspapers, in which the Reverend Jesse Jackson was portrayed as giving interview insight into what will be Mr. Obama’s scaled-down American most favorite-nation status in matters Israel. This, even though, Mr. Jackson was not part of Mr. Obama campaign apparatus or spokesperson for Mr. Obama except of course that the Reverend Jackson is a person of African descent, and had in the past made flippant statements about New York Jews. During the campaigns, it did appear as if there were attempts to label and portray certain persons in particular ways, in order to defeat Mr. Obama at the polls, Mr. Obama weathered the avalanche and the unrelenting storm and they rest, as it were is now history!
Mr. Obama will become the 44th president of the United States come January 20, 2009!
It is really nice to have the symbolism of President Obama as a person of African descent as president of the United States of America; he certainly must not be docile regarding Africa and beyond that, It will be really even nicer still, to begin to know what President Obama would do differently regarding the African continent, and Jamaica, Trinidad/Tobago, Haiti, Antigua, Cuba, Guyana and all the Islands and Caribbean nations etc which brims with peoples of African descent, AND, if not during an Obama presidency, when? When will the lot of Africans and peoples of African descent fare better in terms of US Foreign Policy?
I am aware of course, that Mr. Obama has in the past, visited Kenya, Ethiopia and I think Chad; but well before he declared his presidential ambition; It is also gratifying to note that while this article was already being written, Mr. Obama telephone President Yar’Adua, to discuss American-Nigerian bilateral issues, as well as, multitudes of issues concerning the African continent. This is a start, baby-steps perhaps, but a start nonetheless.
The world is keenly watching Mr. Obama with boundless optimism as he has motivated and inspired America and the entire world. He has demonstrated beyond words that he qualified, competent, disciplined and focused. He is clearly good for America and the world. There are of course extraordinary challenges ahead for his presidency.
I am eagerly anticipating his African Policy formulation and implementation
All eyes and ears are open regarding what would be President Obama US-African Policy.
Paul I. Adujie is a Nigerian lawyer, resident in New York, United States and a member of the International Bar Association
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