The United States President, Barrack Obama’s Africa’s policy as he nears the end of his two term presidency has been assessed in a commissioned work of the think tank, African Studies and Research Forum of Washington, DC.
The 374 page anthology of essays Assessing Barrack Obama’s Africa’s Policy published by the University Press of America, looks at his government’s foreign policy instruments towards Africa and how to strengthen and modify them beyond his administration .
Being reviewed and as one of the advocacy materials to influence the US State Department and the African Union, it examines some relationships as President Obama finally makes an official visit to Kenya, his father’ s country this week.
The work begins with themes of policy continuity and change, followed by those on military interventions, competition and perceived threats, crisis management, economic development and social policy operated in Africa but with some consequences for relations with the United States.
Edited by Abdul Karim Bangura, a professor of research methodology and political science at Howard University it has 17 public policy, economic development practitioners, international relations experts and other specialists as contributors.
The two lead frame-work chapters which set the parameters for assessment are: Continuity or Change in US Relations with Africa During the Obama Presidency by professor of history and the
experienced trial lawyer based in Alabama, Peter A. Dumbuya; and Race and the Great Expectations by the Ghanaian development practitioner and writer currently Research Associate at the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, Ivor Agyeman-Duah.
Dumbuya’s argument is that many of the 32 million African Americans were initially disappointed with what they expected of the Obama administration’s policy even in the US. But, they tend to forget that
“It is often the case that domestic policy informs its foreign policy. When Obama assumed the Presidency in January 2009, the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s was triggered by a financial crisis on the Wall Street….” And that based on these realities of domestic difficulties, whatever foreign policy the Administration engaged in, centered on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea and China.
Mr. Agyeman-Duah in the second framework essay says that a lot of the optimism generated by Obama’s election was misplaced both by ways the US institutions work and also the patrimonial leadership Africans expected of him. By declaring a public holiday in Kenya when Americans went to work on the election day, was a hunting problem from the beginning, he argues.
He assesses further using W.E.B. Du Bois’s definition of black leadership that few including the leading black sociologist, William Julius Wilson who switched camp from Hilary Clinton’s to Obama’s, the historian and Obama’s friend, Henry Louis Gates Jr. at Harvard as well as the philosophers, Cornel West and Kwame Anthony Appiah of Princeton (who and others had previously constituted one of ‘black powers’ at Harvard at the time) could not fathom that historic dawn but knew this ‘black guy was different’.
The fact that West who had joined the Obama campaign team dissociated himself on bitter ideological differences after victory showed the expected level of intellectual patrimony. Obama naturally had to depend on black electorate but at the same time conduct a non-racial campaign.
Agyeman-Duah also argues that Obama’s “Africa must have strong institutions” as rightly argued in his Accra speech assumed a rhetorical phase afterwards. Long before that speech in Benin, Ghana,
Nigeria and parts of Africa, pro-democracy leaders and activists from the 1980s were advocating and building strong institutions. Hundreds of them, he says, died and became martyrs of democratic causes and helped to establish the stronger electoral institutions on the continent today.
Benjamin Aciek Manchar’s essay on Kenyan Politics should be read by especially those interested in the stronger emergency of Kenya as East Africa’s biggest economy but also troubled by terrorism. Manchar has consulted for the government of South Sudan and is an expert on East Africa and the Great Lake Regions. He has been involved for years in public policy work and has had input on policy work on Kenya.
This policy book has apart from the frame-work chapters and country specific policies such as Obama’s Visits to and Speeches in Egypt and Ghana by Jack Mangala, War on Libya by J-P Afram Ifedi, War on Somali by Luqman M. Abdullah, The U.S. Strategy Towards Gender Violence in Africa: Women’s Justice and Empowerment Initiative by Ifunanya C. Nwokedi, also has critical essays such as by the editor Bangura on The Crisis in Cote’d Ivoire and Pro-Gay Policy.
Bangura uses comparative analysis on Bush’s and Obama’s policies urging continuity of some or many but reminding us that contrary to expectation, 9 months after assuming power and winning the Nobel Prize for Peace, Obama became aggressive and added 9 more wars to the 2 inherited from Bush: in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Uganda, Mali etc.
In fact some of the contributors to this anthology had been part of a similar project, Assessing George W. Bush’s Africa Policy and Suggestions for Barrack Obama (2009).
Notwithstanding the themes and solid analysis with conflicting views, it adds to Obama’s now appreciable global standing, barring any ‘tragedy’ as one of America’s outstanding presidents.
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