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Obama’s Accra declaration and aspects of a new US-African policy (1)

By Emma Okocha
“As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of perpetual aid that helps people scrape by -it is whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change…..

We must first recognize the fundamental truth that you have given life to in Ghana. Development depends on good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places…..’’
— President Barack Obama Speech before The Ghana Parliament, July 11, 2009.

“About a century ago, Malaria was a serious problem. Humid Summers created a dangerous breeding ground for mosquitoes and Congress often flee the capital. Some foreign Ambassadors received extra pay for duties in Washington. Through patient and persistent action, malaria is almost entirely eradicated in DC and the US.

We have solved this problem before and believes that Americans have the same will to defeat Malaria in the African Continent.’’ —Former US President George W. Bush to Vanguard’s Emma Okocha at a White House Reception, celebrating Malaria Day.

“Can anything good come from Africa?”  — The Senate of the Imperial Rome.

Six months into his inauguration, the first African American President from the most powerful democracy, recently came home, but avoided his direct heritage, his father’s Kenya.

The United States President in preferring a stop over in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana also caused a veritable stir in the US African diplomatic circles. His choice of going to Ghana was not only a major victory for the former Gold Coast, it was a diplomatic snub for the neighboring state of Nigeria, the giant of Africa.

That was an irreversible diplomatic faux pas for the Nigerian government, judging from the wasted resources and time employed by the latter to ascertain that Nigeria hosted the American President on his first mother continent touch-down.  Observers are still wondering why Nigeria failed to impress the State Department and the White House, in attracting Obama to Abuja.

The sleeping giant for that matter, must have lost a lot of face, when the US President was introduced and from the Ghanaian Parliament, spoke to Africa, On that sacred pulpit, the US President declared, “The 21st century will be shaped by what happens not just in Rome or Moscow but what happens in Accra, as well’’.

He was very critical of African governments that tend to stay for ever in power, and pretend to run elections with little dividends offered to their impoverished peoples.

From the underlining notes it is predictable that the Obama tenure may be departing from earlier policies of his predecessors, most of which, promoted aids to the continent.
A lot of pundits in analysing the Obama address forget that apart from the sophistry, it is fundamental to the Americans in their relationship with African nations, in the long run, to return and protect their own core interests in the continent.

It was George H.W. Bush who set the stage, directing that his National Security Council provide a road map for a US policy for Africa. His predecessor President Ronald Reagan had no policy for Africa.

During the George H.W. Bush era, the first US  foreign policy initiative conducted by that administration involved the providing of funds for Angola, Namibia and a couple of African countries in the Southeastern region of the continent, to enable those countries run elections and build capacity, and institutions for democratic changes.

That effective initiative that led to the peaceful retirement of a former freedom fighter, and a popular President also led to the election of the former Prime Minister, Hage G. Geingob as the President of Namibia. That initiative was termed African Regional Electoral Assistance Fund.

Africa returned to the front burner when President Clinton took over from the senior Bush. He visited the continent, was in Abuja, in fact, he and his cabinet traveled Africa more than all the previous presidents combined. His legacy included the launching of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

On the whole, history will perhaps, eventually, remember George W. Bush as perhaps the most African engaging American President who contributed more to humanise the trauma and the pathetic health crisis that had devoured the African economy and her peoples for centuries. He and his wife toured Africa, fighting the scourge of HIV and the killer disease Malaria to a stand still.

The former President continued to support AGOA and launched several new African initiatives, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the East Africa Counterterrorism initiative.

For the disease that kills an African child every 30 seconds, the President and his wife Laura Bush embarked on more than one trip to Africa.  Supported by USAID, Health and Human Services the State Department, the former First Lady became the spearhead and by the time they left office, they turned the tide and contained the disease in a couple of  the afflicted nations of Africa.

(Next Week …The Conclusion)


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