In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

Obama-Stop Blaming the West (or We’ll Bomb You)

Posted by seumasach on July 12, 2009

Having established saintly status for himself Obama can now get off with this mendacious, racist caricature of Africa and rebrand Western plunder as “patronage”. The nerve of this charlatan, fresh from putting the finishing touches to the US kleptocracy, in attacking African leaders for self-enrichment is astounding and puts him firmly in the Blair, Goebbels school of deception and hypocrisy.

Here is a particularly brazen lie:

“But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade”

For in depth exposure of this lie we recommend Stephen Gowan’s blog, What’s Left. Alternatively look at our Zimbabwe section in “categories” ( left-hand column)

Africans need to take cognisance of the fact that behind the “partnership” verbiage lies the menace of Africom. ITNT strongly recommends that African states reject any “health” initiatives coming from the USA.


11th July, 2009

Adopting a tone his white predecessors never dared employ, the US President told Africa it could no longer blame the West for all its woes.

“Yes, a colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner,” he told the Ghanaian parliament. “But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.”

Seeking to jolt Africa’s politicians out of a complacent belief that his shared ancestry with them would soften his rhetoric, Mr Obama spoke with withering directness.

Condemning tyrannical African leaders who “enrich themselves” amid the continent’s chronic poverty, he promised fresh “partnerships” only with states that were well-governed.

For the kleptocrats and autocrats who still sprinkle the continent, he had a simple message: enough is enough.

“No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery,” he said. “That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.”

Traditional “strong man” rulers must give way to “strong institutions” if they are to benefit from future Western assistance, he said.

“We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t,” he told the country’s parliament from a podium draped in traditional yellow and green kente cloth.

“Development depends on good governance, and that is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many countries. That’s the change which can unlock African potential, but that is a responsibility which must be met by Africans.

“Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

The president sought to praise Africa’s brighter spots, singling out his Ghanaian hosts as an example of progressive democracy. But his speech was an acknowledgment that too much of Africa had followed the lead of Kenya, the land of his father, where corruption, tribalism and rigged elections have crushed the potential of a country once regarded as among the continent’s most promising.

America’s first black president is seen as uniquely placed to influence African leaders, and his speech avoided the hand-wringing over the failure of Western efforts to ease Africa’s ills.

“Mutual responsibility” would be the foundation for an improved future, but “Africa’s future is up to Africa”, he said.

There were few concrete numbers or spelt-out increases in aid during the 33 minute speech in an Accra conference centre.

But Mr Obama promised a greater focus on more trade, on better public health programmes, on efforts to help Africa cope with climate change and to end ongoing conflicts “through technical assistance”.

His uncompromising message, peppered with references to “responsibility” and “partnerships”, was clearly intended for the ears of Africa’s leaders.

But calls for greater activism by young Africans, who make up more than half of the continents’ population, were aimed at the continent’s suffering millions who all too often are powerless to change the way their countries are ruled.

Whether their excitement over the speech will bear fruit in lasting change is, as ever, unclear.

“It was something very powerful to see this man here in Africa talking to us like this,” said Mary Katondi, a petty trader in the eastern Congolese town of Goma.

“But does he not realise that our leaders may listen to his words, but they know they can continue their misbehaviours because these words cannot really hurt them.”

Mr Obama arrived in Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa late on Friday.

Before his speech, he visited a hospital southeast of Accra, where he and his wife toured a maternity ward. He referred to this in his address to the parliament, calling for greater efforts to end unnecessary deaths of children.

During his speech, Mr Obama referred to his family’s background as part of the long history of America’s links to Africa.

“I know full well the tragic past that has sometimes haunted this part of the world,” he said.

“After all I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s history tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story.”

Mr Obama’s first visit to sub-Saharan Africa was always going to be laden with significance, but perhaps the most poignant – and private – part of the trip fell at the end of yesterday’s packed schedule.

Before flying back to Washington, he and his family visited Cape Coast Castle, the former seat of the British colonial administration and a one time slave fort.

Under a leaden sky beside roaring Atlantic surf, American and Ghanaian flags snapped and cracked in onshore gusts outside the imposing white-washed fort. Cape Coast Castle was one of the most notorious slave stations among the dozens dotted along West Africa’s humid coast.

Until Britain banned the slave trade more than 200 years ago, tens of thousands of shackled Africans shuffled from the dungeons through the Door of No Return to cramped sailing ships waiting beyond the pounding surf, bound for the Americas. The visit would have been of particular significance for Michelle Obama, the First Lady, who is descended from African slaves.

“This place is somewhere which brings very mixed emotions to those who visit, especially to African Americans,” said Essel Blankson, senior museum educator at the Castle.

“They are excited to be here, but when they see the full tragedy of what happened, of the horror of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, they cannot fathom it.

“People cry, people wail, some people fall down. It is a very powerful experience and I am sure that the Obama’s cannot fail to be affected.”

Mr Obama acknowledged the fort’s powerful impact on his family.

“One of the most striking things that I heard was that right above where the male captives were kept was a church, and that reminds us that sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think that we’re doing good,” Mr Obama said outside the castle.

Huge crowds had gathered despite threats of rain and a strong breeze from the Atlantic behind the fort.

“I think that it was particularly important for Malia and Sasha, who are growing up in such a blessed way, to be reminded that history can take very cruel turns,” he added.

Calling the visit a “moving experience”, he described the Door of No Return as ‘the portal through which the diaspora began’.

“As African Americans there is a special sense that on the one hand this place was a place of profound sadness, but on the other hand it is here where the journey of much of the African American experience began,” he said.

“It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it is also possible to overcome.”

Whole blocks in Accra had been closed to traffic and were being patrolled by Ghanaian military forces in the widest security operation the city has seen.

Early rainy season downpours had delayed many people, and there were complaints that there would be no address to crowds like that given by Bill Clinton during his visit in 1998, when he was mobbed by tens of thousands.

But traders selling t-shirts and cloth wraps emblazoned with the first black US president’s face still hoped for a brisk trade as the crowds started to build.

“I have more than 100 American flags for sale, already there have been many motorists stopping to buy them,” said one roadside hawker, who gave his name at Tommy.

“Obama is good for Africa, he is good for my business too,” he added, before sprinting through the traffic to a whistling customer.

Ghanaians are immensely proud that Mr Obama chose to visit their country for his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as president, rather than his father’s birthplace, Kenya, or two of the continent’s economic powerhouses, Nigeria and South Africa.

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