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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Karenga on Obama's Ghana Trip

Maulana Ron Karenga’s take on Obama’s trip to Ghana is an important analysis. He points out the progressive character of Obama’s visit. Obviously, Obama is there to promote U.S. interests in the region, even though it is done with with the extended hand “on the basis on mutual respect.” Karenga observes that “Obama has the capacity to share and shape a new way the world could understand and engage Africa.” Unlike recognizing the role of the CIA in the Iranian overthrow there was no recognition of the CIA’s role in the overthrow of Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Karenga expresses real concern that the imperialist interests in the U.S. may be attempting to mask their attempts at business as usual. This has to be a major concern. His visit no doubt was a matter of affirming the dignity of the African people, Karenga points out. Given the struggles of these people against tremendous odds, Obama’s visit buoyed the spirits of the people of Ghana. For an informed, sound analysis check out this piece by Karenga. RGN

Obama in Africa: Rethinking Reality and Responsibility”
Dr. Maulana Karenga

In spite of the current usefulness of his color, the progressive
character of his consciousness and his early and often-stated desire to
repair and remake the country and the world, Barack Hussein Obama is
first and foremost President and thus, protector and promoter of U.S.
state interests. And given the absence of a broad-based, multicultural
progressive movement as a countervailing force, these interests are
often in conflict with the best interests of the country, the people and
the world. So, regardless of how we Africans—continental and
diasporan—want to view and value his trips to Africa, it is important to
keep in mind his primary and overriding purpose.

President Obama’s second visit to Africa within a month, first to Cairo,
Egypt to speak to the Muslim world and then to Accra, Ghana to speak to
Africa as a whole, indicates the importance the U.S. puts on Africa as a
site of strategic, ongoing and urgent interest. U.S. policy toward
Africa is shaped by its interest in Africa as: 1) an expanding source of
resources—oil, gas, minerals; 2) a strategic base for military activity
in Africa and around the world to impose its will, attack its enemies
and protect its markets; 3) a contested terrain for economic competition
with emerging economic powers like China and India as well as the old
economies of Europe; and 4) a source of political allies and/or client
states to be engaged and used as needed.

These realities were obscured or at least half-hidden in the PR
presentation of him as Obama omowale (son returned home), a source of
pride and promise, a champion of change and a harbinger of hope. But
within a 24-hour turnaround, Obama pursued state interests in private
and then in public read from a familiar template, one in which the
corrupt elite are lumped with the oppressed and the whole people
condemned, and one in which history is revised or even erased so that
the international primary predators are hidden, their local
representatives propped up and protected and those preyed on are
preached to about the virtues of a good life they are systematically
prevented from living.

Obama had the capacity to share and shape a new way the world could
understand and engage Africa, and rethink and reconceive Africa’s
historical, current and future place in the world. He could have built
on his model crafted to appeal to the Muslims in his Cairo speech. There
he acknowledged that current realities and relations between the U.S.
and Muslim countries and peoples are rooted in centuries of history,
that the U.S. had committed wrongful actions against Muslim governments
and people, that Islam has been a positive and creative force in the
world and will continue to be, and that a new beginning must be based on
mutual respect, mutual interest and benefit and the shared capacity to
listen to and hear each other.

But he did not mention Africa’s role as the home of the fathers and
mothers of humanity and human civilization, its contribution to the
crafting of basic disciplines of human knowledge in the Nile Valley or
its intellectual history in the civilizations of Western Sudan. Nor did
he speak of the heroic struggles of the people for the liberation of the
continent. Also, he did not acknowledge the U.S. role in overthrowing
the democratically-elected government of Kwame Nkrumah, the founding
father of Ghana or in the overthrow and assassination of Patrice
Lumumba, the founding father of today’s Democratic Republic of Congo,
and other leaders and groups which the U.S. designated as hostile to
willing submission or shameless service.

Nor did he concede that it is the U.S. (and its allies) that introduced
and sustained military coups and now stands ready to militarize Africa
in undercover ways, shifting funding, building and training for formerly
civilian projects t
o military sources and trying to establish a central military command in
Africa. He did not call to task corporate plunder of the wealth and
resources of Africa, nor condemn their and other countries’ use of proxy
armies to destabilize countries; terrorize, murder and rape the people;
and facilitate the brutal robbery of their resources.

Obama’s litany that good governance and the end of corruption lead to
investment and development flies in the face of current practice where
corporations and countries bribe their way to African riches, cultivate
the corrupt collaborator, and eagerly invest in Africa to its great
disadvantage. In a word, corruption is a collaborative affair involving
the very countries and corporations publicly condemning it, but
privately pursuing it for all its worth. And this has gone on
historically and since independence in various forms leading to brutal
exploitation of African labor, the progressive impoverishment of African
people, environmental degradation and the ironic reality of Africans
having the richest of resources and the poorest of peoples. Thus, Obama
cannot seriously dismiss the effects of the Holocaust of enslavement,
colonialism, neo-colonialism and the current destructiveness of
international agencies and corporate exploitation.

The Obama administration and its corporate colleagues must take
responsibility for the rational and ethical contradiction of condemning
corruption and collaborating in it; calling for democracy and supporting
pliant dictators; advocating development and sustaining unjust global
agricultural practices and unfair trade; expressing the need for
improved human services and infrastructure and imposing restrictions on
the development of these through aid and loan policies; calling for an
end to armed conflict and funding it, the end of child labor and not
challenging the corporations that practice it; and impoverishing the
people and condemning them for being poor.

The question is clearly one of responsibility, but how that is defined
is critical not only to understanding and resolving the issue, but also
to dealing in a dignity-affirming way with African people, their
centuries of suffering and their life-and-death daily struggles to
sustain themselves, push their lives forward against all odds and build
the good societies we all want and deserve to live in. Obama’s statement
that “Africans are responsible for Africa” is not only true, but a
well-established principle of any serious emancipatory and developmental
theory, philosophy or project. But there are two levels of
responsibility involved here and we must be rightfully attentive to each
and their interrelationship. As we say in Kawaida philosophy, the
oppressor is responsible for our oppression, but we are responsible for
our liberation. And part of our responsibility for our liberation is not
only being responsible to and for each other, our lives and future, but
also holding the oppressor responsible for the various ways he oppresses
us and dares to deny it.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, Professor of Africana Studies, California State
University-Long Beach, Chair of The Organization Us, Creator of Kwanzaa,
and author of Kawaida and Questions of Life and Struggle: African
American, Pan-African and Global Issues, [; and].

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