Africa: Obama's Victory, Our Hypocrisy
by Chris Agbiti
26 December 2008
November 4th, 2008 will, undoubtedly go down in world history as epoch making. It was a day that signposted the final internment of the age-long divisive philosophy that held one race superior to another (apology to the legend, Bob Marley); it was a day the entire world came together, irrespective of creed and religion, to recite Dune Dimitis (however, not with long faces) for the monster of racial discrimination that had for long defined the political climate of America but now chased away; it was the day Barack Hussein Obama won in landslide, the U.S Presidential election.
The U.S. Presidential Election has come and gone but the echoes of it continue to reverberate in every nook and cranny of Africa especially in Kenya where Obama traces his patrilineal descent from. The euphoria of Obama's victory will for long continue its ripples in the Negroid race of Africa. However, the point is worth making that for the Americans, the euphoria of joy sweeping through its entire nation is understandable: That, at last, someone who has a clear vision and a good grasp of the issues that need to be addressed to restore U.S. lost glory, consequent upon the lacklustre performance of the out-going president, was not held back from realizing that ambition by prejudices. But for Africans, what other reason beside the sentimental consideration that a fellow brother African now becomes President of U.S., can we adduce to bedrocks our own euphoria at the election of Obama?
If one may ask, what business do African countries, together with their stinking leaders, have in rejoicing over Obama's victory at the U.S. poll when we know in our hearts of hearts that we will never allow the kind of system that has produced Obama in U.S. election to be replicated in our own land? Or, are we under a delusion that, with Obama's presidency, African countries shall wake up one morning, like the fabled Alice in Wonderland, and find all the good things of life in sufficiency for all as obtain in the western world, even while our leaders and people continue in their culture of greed, corruption, ethnic hostilities and all such practices antithetical to the dictate of modern civilization?
It bears repeating to state here that it borders on crass hypocrisy for African countries such as Zambia, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria, et al, to rejoice at Obama's victory even when they are all still involved in various acts of prejudices, this time around, not even against a coloured person but against their own black brothers. We have witnessed instances in Zambia where the first post independent Kenneth Kaunda had his citizenship withdrawn on the allegation that his ancestry is somewhere in another African country! Similar acts have played out in Ivory Coast and Nigeria (Shugaba's case). The xenophobic hostilities in South Africa and Zimbabwe are all still fresh in our memories. Africans must be reminded not to expect too much from the presidency of Obama any more than they expected from the presidency of Bill Clinton.
Our only obvious claim to Obama is his blood ties to his Kenyan father. But we must call to memory that, for all the time the elder Obama lived, his conduct in juxtaposition to what Obama Jr. is and stands for today shows, in very lucid details, those sad commentaries of a pure bred African man. The elder Obama came to America and deceitfully led Obama's mother into marriage, even while he was already married to another Kenya woman back home. He was to later abandon Obama's mother and returned to Kenya, leaving young Obama in the care of his maternal grandparents in America. It was recorded that he died drunk-driving. Should Obama's father were to be alive, one imagines that he too may be rejoicing just like the other African leaders are hypocritically doing.
We must stop deceiving ourselves. It is high time we told ourselves a few home truths. Whatever Obama is today or stands for, he owes it all to the American society. If he were to be brought up in Kenya, his fatherland, with all his seeming immeasurable grace of intelligence, he would have ended up, at best, as a very brilliant but frustrated university don holed up somewhere in one of our glorified secondary schools, called university, like many other frustrated Obamas in our African society today. The American society that shaped Obama to become what he is to day places a higher premium of kinship of ideas over and above that of blood.
That explains the acceptance of Obama's candidature across the racial divides. If Obama were not of the rare breed of mankind (who recreates themselves independent of genetic force), he would not even be identifying his African root. It is only for Obama's high sense of humility and decency that he does so and I commend him for it. Africans must be reminded that as we cheer Obama's victory, we must cast away that extra baggage of hypocrisy and begin to reflect on the need for us to home-grow a system similar to what sustains in the U.S. that has made possible the Obama phenomenon.
The world today is ruled by ideas. It is not enough for us bank on blood kinship to Obama and think that alone will be the open sesame to our El Dorado. In today's modern world, kinship of ideas, as aforesaid, rather than of blood or ethnicity is one of the driving force of attraction. In doing so, we must remind ourselves that until we jettison that negative attitude that encourages subjugation of fellow man rather than our environment which is what the white man has effectively achieved, we shall continue in our collective grope.
Insincerity of African leaders
By Sola Ayo-Vaughan,
According to the old dictum "He who comes to equity must come with clean hands". But Africans leaders seem not to believe in this maxim. If they do, they will not continue to support illegalities and allow losers to become winners, making the victors to become subordinates to those they defeated at polls. During the Guardian 25th anniversary lecture delivered by the Kenyan Prime Minister Ralia Odinga, he surreptitiously glorified the power sharing arrangement from which he benefited. I was happy when I read of Chief Segun Osoba's disagreement to this as a way forward in African democracy. Pacifying the victors at polls and pleading with them to accept rigged elections in order to allow peace to reign is a postponement of doomsday.
African leaders are fast perfecting this.
According to Tsun Zu, the Chinese war strategist, who said 2300 years ago, that armed force is the ultimate arbiter of conflicts. War is an extension of round table conference. Change, if cannot be peacefully obtained will result in armed conflict. War is ravaging many parts of Africa today because of failure to succumb to a truly democratic arrangement. Somalia is in full scale factionalized war while Sudan is neither at peace nor at war. Same goes for Congo.
In 2005, when Eyadema passed on, the military foisted his son Faure Gnassinbge on Togo as his successor. Most members of the military in Togo are from the late Eyedema's ethnic group. They wanted to maintain the status quo. This was in contravention of the nation's constitution and was challenged by popular protests. There was a protest and a threat of sanctions from the regional leaders. Gnassingbe succumbed to pressure and agreed to hold election in late April 2005 which legitimise his succession. The opposition disagreed with the result of the election which favoured the 'successor'. African leaders, led by the "regional leader" Olusegun Obasanjo persuaded all to accept the result and allow peace to reign. The opposition sheathed their swords and went underground. The ruling party which had the support of the military was overwhelming.
It was not so easy in Kenya. When elections were conducted in December 2007, Kibaki's Party of National Union which had been in power since attainment of independence saw no reason to relinquish power. The Kikuyu ethnic tribe dominated party came to power through Jomo Kenyatta. Incidentally, Ralia's father, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga became opposition leader on attainment of the country's independence on 12th December 1963 and remained so until death. The Odingas are of Luo tribe. Ralia inherited his father's doggedness and carried on the request for a change to wrestle power from a corrupt – ridden government. At the end of elections, accusations and counter accusations of electoral malpractices led to armed conflict which was more or less a civil war. It degenerated into a tribal war in which 1,500 lives were lost and 600,000 persons were displaced. African leaders including the immediately past UN Secretary
General intervened to save the country from degenerating to the level of Cote d'ivore situation. The opposition, Orange Democratic Party, led by Ralia Odinga which was believed to be coasting home to victory was persuaded to agree to a power sharing formula in which Kibaki remains the country's leader. After the agreement was put in place, it was not clear who was number two as Kibaki's running mate maintained that he was next to the president. Time will tell if the agreement will stand the test of time. The most recent power sharing arrangement is that of Zimbabwe. It is ongoing. It is a well known story. Rather than tell their colleague to allow the electoral process to take its course and allow an acceptable winner to emerge, African leaders are once again trying to persuade Tsvangirai and his party to take the crumbs Robert Mugabe will reluctantly want to part with. Tsvangirai is being hounded and his life and that of his supporters are not safe. Has African leaders thought of the mayhem that will follow his demise. They should be bold enough to tell him the truth. Quit.
In may this year, South Africans attacked foreigners in their country. Most targeted were Zimbabweans. They had become economic refugees. They fled their country in droves to escape the economic hardship brought by misrule of a sit-tight leader. That attack was a protest of some sort against Thabo Mbeki's refusal to tell his Zimbabwean colleague the truth. Many African citizens lost their lives because their leaders could not collectively take a decision that should allow ultimate peace to reign. African leaders need to be reminded to learn from history. The failure of European leaders, the Allies to oppose Adolf Hitler led to the Second World War. When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, the Allies did not protest. When he annexed Czechoslovakia on the flimsy excuse of trying to liberate the oppressed Sudeten Germans, the European leaders, led by Prime Minister Chamberlain of United Kingdom as arrowhead, made a feeble protest, but at the end persuaded the Czechs to accept their fate and allow Hitler ride roughshod over them. It was when Hitler decided to annexe Poland that the allies came to accept the truth: that Adolf Hitler's intention was to rule the world. They acted too late. Next to be annexed was France. The United Kingdom was saved by Hitler's tactical error at Dunkirk. He could have annihilated the Allied forces and marched on Great Britain. The whole world paid for the allies' reluctance to take the right decision in time. African leaders should condemn actions of their despotic sit-tight colleague and persuade them to take a bow when rejected
A leader once stated at the end of his tenure that to relinquish power willingly could be difficult. If not that a country had developed a culture of leadership change constitutionally, one may be tempted to remain as long as one may wish. This culture of willingness to obey the dictates of the electorate is what African leaders should imbibe. Sit-tight leaders still abound in the continent believing that their country's rulership is their birthright. They continue to suppress opposition and amend their constitutions to remain in power. Inevitably, there will be a flashpoint. It's a matter of time. One of such leaders is on Nigeria's right flank while another is in the Great Lake Region amongst others. They have been in power for over twenty years. Their emergence as their country's rulers was not through the polls. Ghana is a country in Africa whose political evolution has put her in good stead. It is note worthy that an opposition party, to which President Kufor belongs defeated Jerry Rawlings ruling party and there followed a peaceful change. It is about the most peaceful and most civilized country in Africa. African leaders should rise in unison and advise their colleagues to prevent violence by allowing a peaceful change as demanded by the people they claim to love.
Continuous support or feeble protest to leaders' electoral fraud will only engender violent protest from the people they forcibly want to govern. War is an extension of a failed peaceful negotiation.