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Africa has never been a priority for the United States

Saturday June 29 2013



President Barack Obama’s visit to three countries in Africa has failed to excite, annoy or even disappoint. In fact, it is slowly passing out as a non-event.

Many on the continent have no view on the visit. They are rightly not bothered about the visit. Except a few Kenyans who initially voiced their disappointment that he would skip the country of his forefathers in his tour of Africa.

But to their credit, even this minority has now recollected its thoughts, recomposed itself and rationalised the visit. So what does the visit really mean for Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania? Nothing!

President Obama is not Candidate Obama of five years ago. He is a pale shadow of the man who mesmerised the world with his oratorical skills, inspirational speeches and wide smiles. He is a limping version of the giant of a man who swept the world with his moving speeches, deep thinking and a great promise of a better tomorrow.

He is not the man who promised so much good to the entire world that mankind, in a moment of universal seduction, thought that Obama was a global messiah in Uncle Sam’s guise to deliver the globe to a long and sustained period of peace, love, unity and universal prosperity.

President Obama is not the man the American people gambled their fate with. Five years after his first election, Obama has shrunk so much in stature that he is barely recognisable in the global stage were it not for his black skin.

So how does one explain the dramatic metamorphosis of the giant into a dwarf in such a short time?

The simple answer is that apart from the symbolism of his persona, Obama has failed to show substance especially on the global stage.

Obama has been a monumental disappointment both in America and on the global stage. He is no Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, two politicians on either side of the political spectrum who achieved so much both inside America and globally.

Both at home and globally, Obama has been defined by total lack of any conviction to drive him apart from becoming president to propel his tenure as a worthwhile enterprise. That is why his presidency, in terms of transformative agenda and substantive achievements whether at home or abroad, probably ranks lowly compared to his immediate predecessor.

Both at home and abroad, Obama has failed to outgrow the defining symbolism of being the first African-American to be elected president in America.

He has failed to define his presidency and achievements in themes other than the complexion of his skin. His great promises have turned into nightmares all around. He hunts his opponents like rabbits whether they are Americans or foreigners. He spies and eavesdrops on all like the typical Orwellian state and listens to the most intimate of conversations in the name of national security.

Obama knows a lot about Africa. That he chose to ground his main speech in Senegal on the need for African states to expand the rights of gay people shows his obsession with shallow symbolism.

Obama should know that Africans are addressing more important and pressing challenges like the right to food, education, affordable health care, access to drinking water, etc. The point he was really intent on making on gay rights is that America will deal with Africans on its terms and on issues as it defines.

Obama is loved and adored in Kenya and in Africa. He will be welcomed like a returning hero. He will make great inspiring speeches. But don’t expect a lot. There is no substance in his great speeches. He is the head of an empire in its twilight facing many challenges. Africa is not a priority and has never been one.

Ahmednasir Abdullahi is the publisher, Nairobi Law Monthly. [email protected]