“I actually think I am a pretty good president,” President Barack Hussein Obama told the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. “I think if I ran again, I could win. But I can’t!”
While Republicans in the U.S. probably turned a whiter shade of pale, Obama explained that he was making the point that when it is time to leave office—it is time to leave. “Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end,” he said.
The irony of a Bush and a Clinton vying to continue political dynasties in the U.S. was not lost on some observers. Africa’s 54 nations were on tenterhooks listening to see if he would speak in depth on America’s Africa policy. He did not.
“I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya, and of course I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States,” he said, grinning warmly, as he spoke to a packed-to-capacity crowd of almost 5,000 in a gymnasium in Nairobi.
Basking in the cultural pride of his father’s homeland, the president wined and dined with his half sister Dr. Alma Obama and step-grandmother, Mama Sarah Obama, and he successfully mastered the beautiful, smooth Lipala dance (sort of like the Kenyan Electric Side). But he wouldn’t be Obama if he weren’t chastising Black folks for the disadvantages they experience.
He urged the people of Kenya to confront corruption and terrorism. He said that fighting in South Sudan and Somalia coupled with the threat and actuality of Boko Haram and al-Shabaab endangered the whole region. He called on Kenyans to abandon some ancient traditions, such as female genital cutting, and to allow girls and women equal access in a male-dominated society.
“I am very pleased that POTUS has used every opportunity he has to preach to African leaders the evil of corruption and advised them to desist from their corrupt practice,” Michael Adeniyi, former president, Organization for the Advancement of Nigerians, told the AmNews. “For example, with an estimated $400 billion stolen out of Nigeria since independence, how does one expect Nigeria to grow and prosper? Education, health care, infrastructure, etc., are decrepit because of debilitating corruption perpetrated on Nigeria. A new breed of African leaders is needed to change course for the continent.”
“Africa’s strength lies not only in resources, but also some of the most gifted and talented people in the world,” said Olanike Alabi, the Brooklyn state committeewoman/district leader, 57th A.D. “President Obama’s recent visit is significant. It’s an opportunity to strengthen ties in the region, discuss investment opportunities and, most importantly, to address the needs and concerns of the lives of the men, women and children who are still affected by decades of enslavement, colonialism, unstable governments, debt, war, etc.”
Either by design or because of convoluted circumstance, Obama did not meet the Southern African Development Community chairman, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, in Addis Ababa. Yet, he did meet other African Union heads and members, including Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour.
One of the issues he broached was the importance of supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia. But Obama also threatened a new round of sanctions if the warring sides in South Sudan—President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar—did not reach a peace agreement as worked out by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development by Aug. 17.
Kenyan-American Nova MwaAfrika Felder is an activist and educator at Medgar Evers College. His mother is from Kenya’s highlands. She emigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s and married South Carolinian scientist and educator Dr. Jack Felder. Felder has a unique appreciation of Obama’s visit.
“I listened with a gleam in my eye as he addressed audiences in Nairobi and in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,” he told the AmNews. “To see the leader of the most powerful country calling himself ‘the first Kenyan-American president’ is for many a symbol of the changing racial politics in America and the world.”
Felder put the visit into perspective, stating that the entire trip was not filled with “niceties and state dinners.” About Obama’s speeches, he remarked, “He did offer harsh criticisms about corruption, women and gay rights reform and warnings about being president for life to his African sisters and brothers.”
Echoing the thoughts of many here in the U.S., Felder added, “I wish he had spoken to reforming many of the same problems that we face here in America. The New York State Senate is mired in a corruption scandal as we speak, woman still have not received equal footing in corporate America and the United States may have one of the world’s oldest democracies, but it also is the world’s largest hegemonic military force that brings warfare and chaos across the globe.”
Felder concluded, “If President Obama would have spoken to those issues equally and frankly and America’s struggles with those issues, I think that would have had a greater impact. For President Obama to take a hypocritical position while being the sitting head of state of a country that has deep racial divides, socio-economic problems and uses a military force domestically and internationally as solutions to many problems is disingenuous at its best. Maybe, just maybe, the ‘dreams from his father’ could manifest into a better world here in America, as well as on the continent of Africa.”
“I’m glad that President Obama went to Africa,” Assemblyman Charles Barron told the AmNews, “but I would like to see his African policy go beyond building military bases in Africa and calling for free trade that would be the second economic colonization of Africa. And I would have liked to have seen the president go to Adidas Ababa and embrace SADC Chairman President Mugabe, and show more support for the people of Zimbabwe as they re-claim their land, their heritages and their minds from colonialism and neocolonialism. And I would like to see President Obama support the continent of Africa with the same level of commitment and loyalty that he shows to Israel.”