The Protest Against President Obama in South Africa is justified, By Femi Falana

Lagos Lawyer, Femi Falana

When President Barrack Obama visited Ghana for a few hours in 2009, he blamed African leaders and exonerated imperialism for the underdevelopment of the African continent. I had cause then to join issues with the American leader over his simplistic and escapist position which has informed his dangerous African policy. Since the bulk of the wealth stolen from Africa is lodged in the vaults of western banks and other financial institutions, I challenged President Obama to join the peoples of Africa to ensure the repatriation of such looted wealth for development . In spite of his flowery speeches against official corruption, President Obama has not taken any concrete step to arrest capital flight to the West from Africa and other parts of the world. The Obama administration which was part of the allied forces of imperialism that invaded Libya for crude oil has left the country in political turmoil. The inconsistent policies of the administration in the Middle East have accentuated the political crisis in Egypt while the United States government has continued to support Morrocco in the illegal occupation of Western Sahara.

Having not changed his reactionary views on Africa, President Obama has been confronted with protests in South Africa. Although the South African police resorted to violence in stopping the protests, it is symbolic that the first African American President is being challenged in Africa for not fulfilling his promise to stop the United States’ government from violating the human rights of oppressed peoples across the world. In particular, President Obama has not been able to explain the refusal of his administration to close down the Guatanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba and justify his support for Israel which has refused to recognise the Palestinian State. Under President Obama, the United States has continued to use drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists without trial. Up till now, the United States government has not ratified the Rome Statute. Yet it has turned itself into the Chief Bailiff of the International Criminal Court!

It would be recalled that under the Bill Clinton administration, the United States government provided substantial funds to mobilise measures to combat the killer diseases of malaria fever and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in Africa. Even President George Bush, whose policies were generally reactionary, facilitated the enactment of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) to provide trade preferences for quota and duty-free entry into the United States for certain goods from Africa up to 2015. In his own case, President Obama has not added any value to the United States’ policy on Africa. To that extent, countries like Nigeria and Kenya which are conspicuously missing from President Obama’s itinerary should ignore the irrelevant tour. Afterall, Ghana has nothing to show for the 2009 visit of the American leader!

However, the disappointment with President Obama’s banal African policy should not bother Africans. The efforts of individual Americans like Mr. Bill Gates and President Jimmy Carter, who are collaborating with African leaders to fight the scourge of polio and guinea worm should be commended. While it is noted that the Obama Administration has promised to reward handsomely those who can provide information leading to the arrest of some boko haram leaders, it is not prepared to provide funds to combat poverty, illiteracy and ignorance which are largely responsible for breeding terrorism in Nigeria. Instead of allowing themselves to be deceived by President Obama’s rhetoric of political slogans, the African people should take their destiny on their hands. It is high time the governments of African states were compelled to comply with article 21 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which has imposed a duty on them to freely dispose of the wealth and natural resources of Africa in the exclusive interests of the people and “eliminate all forms of foreign economic economic exploitation particularly that practiced by international monopolies so as to enable their peoples to fully benefit from the advantages derived from their natural resources.”

As President Obama rounds up his visit to Africa on July 3, he should be told that he has dashed the hopes of millions of Africans who had expected him to lead the battle against poverty in the world. But due to the implementation of neo-liberal policies being championed by the United States, poverty is on ascendancy. Since President Obama is not familiar with the history of the brutal exploitation of Africa by the imperialist nations, he is advised to read Dr. Walter Rodney’s book on “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” before paying his next visit to Africa!

Femi Falana is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria


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