In 2008, from CapeTown to Cairo, Nairobi to Lagos, portraits in streets and T-shirts of the face of a man whose presidential victory marked the realization of the “prophecy” or the dream of Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”, was visible everywhere and sang on radios and televisions even in remote villages, throughout the continent.
There was so much hope; a great moment of pride for the people of Africa who are still afresh recollecting the tormenting memories of slavery and colonialism that have done unimaginable damage to the lives of millions of Africans.
This was the birth of the Presidency of Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States with African ancestral connection. It was a great moment of joy for Africans, who now have one of their son in the White house. Per their expectations, life was going to be better now that one of Africa’s son, is steering the affairs of the world’s most powerful nation.
However, it was utterly an African problem for hoping and counting too much on their son but it was not Obama’s as proven by the end of his presidency. He was not a president for Africans.
The record of Barack Obama with the continent and the black people of Africa is one teeming with so much controversy and disappointment, especially if to be compared with his predecessor, George Bush who is celebrated ahead of him in terms of their respective impacts on the continent.
A major factor that played into this controversy and disappointment, experts opined is the high expectation from him by the people who were counting on his historical connection with Africa to usher a new start between America and the land of Africa. Obama’s father hailed from East Africa, Kenya.
However, his international policies recorded little impact on the continent throughout his tenure and some of these policies put him out of favor among the new generation of Pan-African youths (The New Breed of Africa). This is because many of his policies for Africa are considered as something detrimental for Africa and some of those policies are but not limited to the following:
The Libya Disaster
The removal of General Gaddafi and plugging into havoc now stateless Libya is perhaps one of the worst records of Obama in offices against his campaign promise to silence guns in the continent.
Obama himself did acknowledge in an interview with Fox News in 2016 that his intervention in Libya is the “biggest foreign policy regret” of his time as president of the United States. To a greater extend, his intervention in Libya for obvious reasons overshadows any potential positive action he may have done for the people of Africa.
At the times of Obama’s Presidency, Libya under Gaddafi has registered one of the greatest progresses on the continent and its leader, Gaddafi was in the vanguard in efforts to unite Africa. This was not until Obama stunned the continent when he together with Nicholas Sarkozy of France through NATO launched an aggression against the benevolent Libyan leader.
According to experts, the elimination of Gaddafi by Obama and his French counterpart was aimed at enabling America access oil in Libya and to stop Gaddafi’s efforts to unite the economy of the continent under a single currency, Dinar. Not did Obama only lead in invocating disorder in Libya but equally abounded it in the hands of Islamist terrorist groups and various government factions.
Currently, Libya remains without a single recognized government while hundreds of thousands of African youths continue to exploit the “failed state” situation to embark on irregular migration to Europe. Countless African youths have lost their lives as a result of the irregular migration through Libya while Libyans themselves are now left without oil despite it been abundant in the country.
Cultural Imperialism – The Promotion of Same-Sex Marriage
His policy to place the LGBTQ agenda as a top priority of his diplomatic relationship with the African continent brought another shock-wave across the African community. In his last term in office, the Obama administration made the promotion of LGBTQ agenda as a major part of American foreign policy and sadly, Africa appeared to be the suitable testing ground. Africans saw this as a direct affront on their culture, norms and values. This set the precedent for other western countries to use LGBTQ agenda as a condition to trade and a justification to place economic sanctions on African nations with anti-gay laws that aimed at safeguarding the social order and national values.
In this way, Obama manifested utter disregard to the values and culture held by Africans, especially when he later toured the continent to urge its leaders to legalize the practice of same-sex marriage, though Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Senegal and other African leaders have rejected (mostly openly) his call for the legalization of the much-detested practices on the continent. Many view this move as one that is very contradicting in the sense that Obama was essentially telling the African leaders to dictate on the people for something that the 98% majority do not want.
The birth of South Sudan, the youngest nation on earth and it’s consequent decent into further violence in 2011 during Obama’s administration is another poorly rated foreign policy. Having proposed and supported the idea for an independent South Sudan, Obama withdrew his support just at the birth of the new nation which crumbled into further civil war. Millions of life in that country continue to face hardship till today. Burundi suffered the same fate in his hand as did South Sudan.
Contradictory to his advocacy for democracy and rule of law around the world, Obama have manifested a contradicting character in his relation with dictators across the continent. He would label the democratically elected government of Ethiopia in 2012 as a dictatorship while keeping his relationship with leaders such as Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Omar Bango of Gabon.
On the economic aspect, Barrack Obama’s economic policies were focus on Asia, the Middle East, and to some extent in Europe. None of his beneficial foreign relation policies were aimed at Africa especially at the initial stages of his presidency save when he initiated the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) at the later days of this presidency. His Power Africa project, which aimed at improving electricity on the continent, also remains a massive failure.
AFRICOM – US Military Installations in Africa
The sovereignty of the continent equally became under increase threat when Obama signed a defense bill in 2015 to build a “US Military drone site” in Niger at the tone of $100 million leaked documents revealed. This military project places a lot of security threats to the impoverished people of Niger. The project, which is still ongoing focuses on furthering the military interest of the USA on the continent with little or no benefit to the people of Niger. Several human rights violations are normally committed by these foreign military troops. Usually, foreign troops installation are put in place to safeguard the financial interest of western capitalist firms who often sign unfair trade deals with some of Africa’s unpatriotic leaders.
From the removal of Gaddafi, to his same-sex policy, South Sudan and Burundi, his support to dictators and military engagement in the continent have positioned him in his eight years presidency as the first black President who, despite the high expectations- failed to gratify in the least, the hopes that his ancestral land have placed on him.