On January 20, the American President of African descent, Barack Obama, will start a second mandate as President of the United States. Many Africans fault him for not doing enough for Africa during his first four year mandate. How will this second mandate be for Africa? Southworld has asked the opinion of Mukete Tahle Itoe, a Cameroonian Magistrate.
The US policy for Africa was barely discussed during last year’s presidential campaign, except for a fleeting mention of Islamic extremism in Somalia and Mali, during a debate on foreign policy. The very scant attention paid to Africa has left many on the continent feeling abandoned, especially by a President with African roots.
To me, the message was clear – irrespective of who occupies the White House; matters are not run on the basis of the big man’s whims. It is American interests, and not the President’s interests, that reign supreme in Africa with its parochial politics. The US has specific areas of focus, which means that ‘development partners’ must not expect much simply because there is change or otherwise at the top.
In his first term, Obama made only one, cursory trip to Sub-Saharan Africa and made no remarkable efforts like his predecessors to increase US-African economic relations although he defended the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) initiated by President Bill Clinton, to offer African goods unfettered market access into the US. The US was Africa’s biggest trading partner until China beat her to the top position during the last few years.
In the last four years, the Obama Administration has failed to clearly express its position on the request made by African States through the African Union, AU, for an African permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Obama also failed to speak out when the French meted out crude colonial interventionist policies in the Ivory Coast to unseat Laurent Gbagbo, and with regards to the killing of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, the most cherished African Head of State, by French forces. These issues remain dark, deep in the minds of Africans, yet Obama condones another handful of dictators on the African continent.
It is Africa’s hope now that Obama in his second term will have Africa on his priority list. The US is fully aware that its businesses, security, and cultural dominance can only be sustained if poverty and social upheavals are put in check in other countries including those in Sub Saharan Africa. That is why Africans expect Obama to use his second term to boost development in areas of health, poverty alleviation, trade, and education that can help economic and social progress and provide jobs for the millions of unemployed.
In the political domain, Africans expect Obama to comply with his own words to real and true practice of democracy: ‘No Alliance with African Dictators’. Africans followed with keen interest Obama’s speech in Ghana in July 2009 – in which he stated that Africa does not need strong men but strong institutions. Obama is expected to turn his back on tyrants in Africa who are silencing their own people with foreign guns.
By and large, Africans expect Obama to foster actions, policies and programmes in Africa that encourage self reliance, shun corruption, deter dictators, and which provide an enabling environment for citizens’ full participation in the management of their own affairs, thereby enhancing sustainable human development. In so doing, Obama shall have a place in the hall of fame in Africa by the time his mandate will have come to an end.
Mukete Tahle Itoe is a Cameroonian Magistrate, who co-ordinates the activities of the Global Network for Good Governance (GNGG), an anti-corruption and good governance promotion organization based in Cameroon.