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Ghana: Bloggers React to Obama's Speech

President Barack Obama made his first visit to Sub-Saharan Africa and delivered a speech in Accra, Ghana on July 11. The speech has drawn reactions from bloggers around Africa and abroad. Here are some discussions in the blogosphere about the message he had for Africa. For a full transcript of his speech, visit Rafiki Kenya. Chiume has a link to the Swahili version of his speech on his twitter page.

Ghana Pundit says that the speech was a straightforward message to all the people but especially to African leaders:

President Obama in his first trip to Africa South of the Sahara delivered a straightforward speech to all the people but especially to the leaders who for the past fifty years have been in control and whose policies have brought untold economic hardship and misery to the people

“Much of what President Obama had to say we already know as African’s,” writes Moses Kemibaro. He adds, ” He has articulated many issues that are familiar but what is different is the actions he proposes that deviate from his predecessors.”:

Much of what President Obama had to say we already know as African’s. He has delivered a speech that encapsulates the negative and positive aspects that we know about Africa, ranging from corruption to peaceful elections, from war to peace, from tribalism to entrepreneurship.
In a nutshell, President Obama is well appraised on what is going on throughout the African continent as his speech clearly demonstrates. He has articulated many issues that are familiar but what is different is the actions he proposes that deviate from his predecessors. This is what Africa has been waiting for from the leader of the free world – a new direction and attitude from the US on Africa.
He is asking us, as Africans, to take responsibility for our destinies as individuals and communities. He is asking Africans to finally do the right thing and live up to their full potential and greatness. Indeed, is such a thing possible? Can we do the right thing as he has asked? I certainly hope so! YES WE CAN fellow Africans! Its time for new beginnings and time for a new Africa!

The Provocateur considers his speech in Ghana as one of Obama's best speeches, “…President Obama spoke much like Bill Cosby does to the African American community,”:

This was one of the best speeches that President Obama has given in my opinion. There was none of the moral equivalencies, America bashing, and straw man arguments that President Obama has grown far too fond of using in other speeches.

Throughout the speech, I thought that President Obama spoke much like Bill Cosby does to the African American community. Just as Cosby says that it's time for African Americans to stop using prior wrongs as an excuse to live life poorly, so too did President Obama say that prior wrongs done on the continent by outsiders are no excuse for what is happening now in the continent.

Africa has a long and terrible history of oppression, slavery, and colonialism. That history has lead drawing lines of sovereignty that have a lot less to do with history and relationships and lot more to do with the naive randomness that outside colonials dreamed up in their heads. While President Obama acknowledged this terrible history and its weight on current African society, he said firmly that this was no excuse for corruption, tyranny, and the broken societies that this leads to.

However, his speech was short and vague on solutions:

While the president did an excellent job of laying out the problems, he was short and vague on solutions. Of course, that's natural. The solutions can't possibly be summed up in any reasonable way in a speech that was about a half hour. The solutions can be laid out in a speech but it will take hard work, not yet seen, to resolve them. So, while I commend the president on an excellent speech that identifies many of the problems on the continent, and lays out in broad strokes the solutions. It will be, as the president himself pointed out, up to the African continent to follow through and lift itself up. We can only be there to support those that support freedom, democracy and good governance. (something the president also said)

Selasi Ackom's conclusion from the speech is that no amount of money can solve Africa's problems:

My personal conclusion; No amount of money can solve Africa’s problems! African can be self-sufficient by the kind help of the western countries. It would start from when Africa is giving the bargaining power on their exports, when Africa is giving a fair share of its investment and resources, when Africa is involved in international policy taking, when African resources are giving to their own natives to manage and also when African leaders think about the continent rather than their selfish interest. The just past world BOSS, the UN secretary General was a Ghanaian and by his kind involvement in some few international decisions, we could all realized the impact it made on the continent with aid and investment. He was single and could do just a little. If such opportunity is giving to Africa, it will make a big difference! There should be a plateform for all African Humanitarian Organisation and NGO’s to raise mega funds for humanitarian crisis. They know their own people and their needs, no one knows African needs better than Africans themselves. We need a total libration for a United Continent. Pan-Africa is a common festival for all African-Diasporrian and its here again. Maybe, we can meet there to share some common thoughts.
Long Live Ghana, Long Live Africa and Long Live the USA!

Edwin Okongo writes, “African Blood’ Saved Obama From Scrutiny in Ghana.” He argues that Africa exempted Obama from tough questions because of his African blood:

During his visit to Ghana, President Barack Obama laid out a U.S. policy that wasn’t any different from that of his predecessors. But because Obama’s father hailed from my home country of Kenya, and because blood –- African blood, especially -– is thicker than water, Africans exempted their son’s plan for the continent from the tough questions it warranted.

To understand how important blood lines are in Africa, we have to go back to May, when Obama announced his plans to visit Ghana. Euphoria gripped the continent so tightly that instead of talking about what kind of relationship Africa should have with the United States, we went after each other. We wondered why he chose Ghana. Kenyans –- who thought they had an inalienable right to Obama’s first visit as president –- complained that they had been snubbed. Nigeria wondered why Obama didn’t include the African giant in his itinerary. And, if you were Obama, wouldn’t you automatically pick the land that gave the world Nelson Mandela?

In sheer American fashion, Obama explained boldly that he picked Ghana because of the West African nation’s “democratic commitment.” 

While Kenyans, Nigerians, South Africans and others were searching their souls, Ghanaians were preparing to do what we Africans do best: dress in colorful attire, sing, dance and chant in praise of presidents.

Although other African countries found their souls very quickly -– “democratic commitment” is such a clear message –- they couldn’t do so in time for Obama to add them to his itinerary. So they joined Ghana and made this “our visit” –- a visit to sub-Saharan Africa. After all, isn’t it blood that binds us, and doesn’t an African son belong to the village?

By the time Obama landed in Ghana, we were so unified by this son of Africa that we did not ask him to tell us what the real purpose of his visit to Ghana was, and how his new plan was different from that of his predecessors.

Why is Obama pushing for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)?:

“Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at war,” Obama said, yet the son of Africa continues to push for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) –- the same policy of militarization we rejected under Bush. Why did his administration boost funding –- from $8.3 million in 2009 to $25.6 million in 2010 –- for sale of weapons to some of the same corrupt countries he avoided on his trip? The figure seems meager, but $25.6 million can put at least 25,000 M16 rifles in the hands of some of the corrupt countries. Also, according to Washington, D.C.-based African Security Research Project, the U.S. military is training several African countries including Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, under a program called International Military Education and Training (IMET). Obama has also proposed new IMET programs in Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe.

Edwin continues with his tough questions for Obama, “It takes more than a couple of brief visits to Africa to understand the continent”:

Because he has African blood, we were afraid to tell him that it takes more than a couple of brief visits to Africa to understand the continent. We agreed with him that, “Yes, a colonial map that made little sense helped to breed conflict.” But we failed to explain to him that many of the Africans who bring up colonialism do not do so to blame the West. That we have never denied that in Africa corruption exists in endemic proportions; that we mention colonialism for the sake of practicality; that we want the West to understand that a continent brutalized and looted for centuries cannot turn around in 50 years. 

We want the United States to look at where it was 50 years after its independence. Were the African slaves free? Could women vote? Had the civil war even happened? Wasn’t corruption rampant in the new, free nation? 

But rather than ask this son of Africa to look at history, we let him spit the same Western rhetoric that implies that any African who utters the word “colonialism” wants Africa to wait 200 years for a strong “democratic commitment.” Because Obama is of our blood, we let him continue to push the same flawed, condescending idea that every African is in dire need of water, food and medicine. “And that's why,” he said, “my administration has committed $63 billion to meet these challenges.”


Why did we cheer when he said that America will put more resources in the hands of those who need it?:



We cheered when we heard Obama say that America “will put more resources in the hands of those who need it,” even though we know that most of that aid will end up in the hands of our not-so-democratically-committed African-born sons. We applauded when Obama said, “Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way,” although it’s no secret that even if the entire world opened its market to Africa, most of us would have nothing to sell.

“More talk than action on Africa,” writes Paxallels:

Basically the Obamas are more comfortable interfacing in the palaces and salons of the world rather the poverty stricken continent of Africa where he never spent much time in his life – but talked a lot about.

Agendaa Aloysius has a piece of advice for Obama:

That is certainly true because Africa’s current colonial administrators are just was bad as the colonial masters were. However, when we look as the fiscal heavens created by corrupt leaders and supported by wealthy but corrupt nations too, which have in a great way impoverished developing nations, then, there are several unanswered questions. When you examine the dysfunctionalities, there is so much questioning.
Areas like Jersey, Monaco, Geneva, Munich, London, Delaware etc are among the top ranking places where illicit funds are kept and banking transactions made in almost no respect with basic legal and moral banking principles like not accepting money from doubtful sources.
President Obama should make it possible for his country to sign agreements with other African countries so that bank accounts and assets of all Africans especially those holding positions of responsibility or who have held positions of responsibility to be tracked at anytime.
For some time now, rich but corrupt countries holding stolen funds have always refused to collaborate with countries from where the funds have been stolen on the pretext of complicated legislations.
The answer simple: The host countries always want to own the money and other real estates gotten from embezzlers. That is why funds belonging to thieves like Mobuto, Abacha, Bongo etc have been virtually owned by host countries.
For some time now, rich but corrupt countries holding stolen funds have always refused to collaborate with countries from where the funds have been stolen on the pretext of complicated legislations.
The answer simple: The host countries always want to own the money and other real estates gotten from embezzlers. That is why funds belonging to thieves like Mobuto, Abacha, Bongo etc have been virtually owned by host countries.

On Fair Trade:

It is our wish to see Mr. Obama use his influence and that of his country to suggest modifications on the imperialist policies of institutions like the UN Security Council, World Trade Organisation the Breton woods etc. Africa needs fair trades not financial aide, which have greatly damage the continent

Edwin Okong'o has a similar point of view. He points out that plundered resources from Africa do not end up in the hands of Africans:

“There are wars over land and wars over resources,” Obama said. But his African blood prevented us from asking him whether most of those resources (diamonds) end up in the hands of Africans. What about that other resource that has caused so much havoc in the Niger Delta? Is it because in Nigeria, “the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery?” Do the multinationals that give these bribes have any role in this war over resources? And, is there any likelihood that a newfound resource (oil) off Ghana’s coast pushed the country higher on the American chart of “democratic commitment?”

On the same topic, a reader at Post Newsline writes:

Right now, the West makes it easy for idiots to steal money and hide it. That is at the bottom of our problems. I know that these rogues find other places, for example Mugabe is hiding money in Hongkong. People like the late Nyerere or Mandela who did not steal money were quite comfortable living in their countries after handing over power. Also, if a president goes abroad for treatment, it should be given a lot of shame and publicity, or denied all together. If they cannot do this, they can make it possible for us to sue the relatives and estates of African rulers and freeze their accounts until good governance is restored. If these things happen we can begin to have accountable government.
Obama, there is a bank in Washington called Riggs Bank where a lot of these presidents and their friends hide stolen money. This is published information. The tyrant of equatorial guinea hides money there.
If Obama's words are to mean anything thieves must be challenged.

Other bloggers are discussing the reasoning behind his choice of Ghana. It is because of discovery of oil in Ghana, argues Agendia Aloysius:

I understand the choice of Ghana was certainly motivated by the country’s democratic rule, stability and progress but again due to the discovery of oil and the need to sign juicy contracts with the now oil rich nation.

His trip to Ghana is part of America's new oil strategy on the African continent:

Are we doing the dirty work for the USA while they clean up their dirty oil mess at home? Have we become the new guinee pig of USA? We should be careful about dealing with a country that helped our decline when they helped in dethroning our first president Kwame Nkrumah.”A word to the wise is enough.”

If Obama's choice was about democracy, Ghana would not have been the best choice. “Couldn’t a better choice have been Tanzania -– where three presidents have left office voluntarily, and equal numbers of Muslims, Christians and indigenous believers have learned to coexist peacefully?,” Edwin asks:

Because Obama is of African blood, no one stood up to tell him that “democratic commitment” is an American buzz phrase we have heard many times, and that, if indeed this was about democracy, Ghana wouldn’t have been the best choice. Doesn’t Ghana have a long history of coups? And didn’t products of those coups rule the country until as recently as 2001? 

Couldn’t a better choice have been Tanzania -– where three presidents have left office voluntarily, and equal numbers of Muslims, Christians and indigenous believers have learned to coexist peacefully? (According to the CIA World Factbook, Tanzania’s economy grew by 7.1 percent in 2008.) Does the fact that a single party has mostly ruled Tanzania make it less of a democracy?

What about Zambia, where Frederick Chiluba -– a former president -– is facing charges for allegedly stealing taxpayers’ money? Yes, President Obama, a court in that supposedly corruption-ridden continent of great suffering has put a former president on trial. 

And, by avoiding other African countries, isn’t Obama continuing America’s “old” policies of pitting nations against each other? Isn’t he contradicting the pledge he made on his inauguration day to open dialogue? Even George W. Bush, of “axis of evil” fame, visited five African countries. And, isn’t it stereotypical to slap the “corrupt” label on all African leaders?

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