By Oromsis Adula
November 4th, 2008 marked a great milestone in American history and the history of people of African descent. For the first time in the history of mankind, a junior senator of African heritage got elected to the office of the President of the
That great ecstasy was deeply felt in Africa more than any other place outside the
Just like the triumph, expectations for a favorable American policy towards
Mr. Moi Kibaki, President of Kenya described Obama´s victory as a “momentous occasion for Kenya…it is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya… as a country, we are full of pride for his success…your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya.”
Nigerian President Oumaru Yar´Adua…”the election of Barack Obama … has finally broken the greatest barrier of prejudice in human history. I believe for us in
, we have a lesson to draw from this historic event…that the election of Obama had “created a totally and completely new era.” Nigeria
Denis Sassou Nguesso described Obama´s victory as a “…moving historic moment…we see how visionaries like Martin Luther King saw coming events. His dream has come true.”
’s National Assembly Leader; Nasser Guelindoksia agreed that Obama´s victory “…is an example to follow, especially by Africans as Americans show that democracy knows no color, religion or origin.” Chad
Somalia’s former President of the Transitional Somali Government, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed defined Obama´s victory as “…a great moment for America and for Africa…I am hopeful that he (President Obama) will help end the major crisis in the world, particularly the endless conflict in my country.”
Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Beshir noted “…we would hope that the slogan of President Obama – change – would be reflected in the foreign policy of the United States…we would like to see some real change between Sudan and the United States.”
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe expressed “…your election…carries with it hopes for millions of your country men and women as much as it is for millions of people of … African descent.”
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe wrote “…as the government and people of Zimbabwe join you in celebrating this event in the history of the U.S.A, I take this opportunity to assure you Mr. President-elect that the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe remains ready to engage your government in any desirable endeavor to improve our bilateral relations”.
During his rigorous campaign season, Obama vowed to change American policy towards
Obama raised the bar even higher in his inaugural speech when he declared “to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist…to all those watching tonight (January 20, 2009) from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces …huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand…those who seek peace and security – we support you”[iii].
Today, after 100 full days in office, Obama got an A or B on most of the things he has accomplished so far and for keeping most of his campaign promises. In his own words Obama acknowledged that he is “pleased with what has been accomplished so far, but we have got a lot of work to do”. Most commentators/journalists based their grading on wide range of issues but notably on the economy, transition into power, hiring scrambles,
I wanted to look at what Obama folks have accomplished the African policy conundrum in their first hundred days in office. Practically, nothing. I am not aware of any major campaigns by the African Diaspora or African interest groups with the exception of Save Darfur Coalition that had an agenda for the President in an effort to hit the ground running. Rather a whole host of expectations that the Obama people would be favorable in their approach towards African issues; Hunger, Poverty, HIV, corruption, democracy, regional Peace and Stability etc that are not addressed. There is no doubt that the financial meltdown and the many challenges Obama has inherited from his predecessor has overshadowed his African and other policy initiatives [IV]. But it seems to me that the no-drama Obama team could have done a lot better if they moved “swiftly and quickly” as they have promised us – the enthusiastic supporters.
The visit of Senator John Kerry to Sudan and U.S. Rep. Donald Payne – chairman of the Africa subcommittee on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to Mogadishu and the dramatic saga of Somali Pirates were among the few major African news makers involving the current U.S Administration[v].
John Kerry’s visit to
Whereas the insurgents fired mortar at Representative Payne’s plane, there was little coverage of the purpose and result of the visit. But the congressman stated that “…the policy of constructive engagement [is] where you deal with the government, and let them deal with their internal problem” is essential to curbing piracy off the Somali coast. He added “…the Somali government doesn’t want Americans to come run any nation-building programs…they want technical assistance…they need financial support, and they’ll take care of it for themselves”[vi].
Very few journalists/pundits considered African Policy in their grade report/card. Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report, one of the few people I have seen grading the President on African policy, gave him one out of five [vii]. I do not know if there are major initiatives in the works for Obama’s African policy. I sincerely hope so. But based on the selection of Ambassador Jonny Carson, a career diplomat noted for a track record of working in Africa, as
American foreign policy on
In short, it remains to be seen if the Obama Administration’s policies will match the rhetoric, the great expectations and the universal goodwill that the President enjoys! Africans of all walks of life are looking up to him to deliver them from repression, war, poverty and HIV/Aids.
Ultimately it is up to Africans not Obama, to fix
[i] Tongkeh Fowale. What does Obama owe
<http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/89031> accessed April 29, 2009.
[ii] Witney W. Schneidman.
<http://allafrica.com/stories/200809291346.html> accessed April 29, 2009
[iii] Barack Obama. Acceptance Speech. November 4, 2009.
<http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/ynews_pl135> and Inaugural Address January 20, 2009
[iv] Daniel Wallis. Obama’s many challenges overshadow
[v] Peter Spiegel. Wall Street Journal.
[vii] Bruce A. Dixon for the Black Agenda Report. Obama’s
[viii] Astrid Zweynert. Reuters. Obama’s first 100 days: Key humanitarian issues
- Obama’s First 100 Days – Wall Street Journal
- BBC NEWS | Have Your Say | Obama: The first 100 Days
- RealClearPolitics – Articles – Obama’s First 100 Days
- Obama’s First 100 Days : Pictures, Videos, Breaking News
- Sizing Up Obama’s First 100 Days – TIME
- Obama’s First 100 Days – Huffington Post
- 1st Hundred Days in Office – Foreign Policy