Sunday, July 12, 2009

Obama's speech calls for change in Africa

Barack Obama's speech in Ghana promised help to the troubled continent of Africa but also asked Africans to be the change that they are seeking -- a message similar to that he espoused on the presidential campaign trail. Obama's appearance in Ghana also had the same rock star characteristics of the election race.

“We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama said in a speech televised across the continent. Obama's visit to Ghana rather than is father's home country of Kenya, or other African nations, was planned to highlight the country's flourishing democracy.

Although Ghana had a troubled beginning as a nation, for more than a decade the country has enjoyed stability and economic growth. Obama's address spoke of hope for spreading democracy across Africa, and for reducting disease and poverty.

“These things can only be done if you take responsibility for your future,” Obama told the Ghanian parliament. “And it won’t be easy. It will take time and effort. There will be suffering and setbacks. But I can promise you this: America will be with you every step of the way, as a partner, as a friend.” Obama's father was a Kenyan goat herder and worked for the British during colonial times. His father came to the United States to study where he met and married Obama's mother, also a student, in Hawai'i.

Obama's visit to slave castle

The president brought his wife, Michelle and their daughters, Malia and Sasha to an infamous former slave trading depot on Ghana's coast. Michelle' Obama's earliest known ancestor, Jim Robinson, was born as a slave in the 1850s in South Carolina.

“Obviously, it’s a moving experience, a moving moment,” Obama said while visiting the site. “As painful as it is, I think that it helps to teach all of us that we have to do what we can to fight against the kinds of evils that, sadly, still exist in our world.”

Obama's speech stressed the need for Africa to give up the tradition of autocratic leaders and develop a more holistic approach instead: “Africa doesn’t need strongmen. It needs strong institutions." Obama's call for responsibility is not new -- many other Western leaders have done the same before -- but this is the first African American president to make the appeal.

“I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story. Some of you know my grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him boy for much of his life," Obama said noting how Africa can emulate his own family's success. “You can do that. Yes, you can. Because in this moment, history is on the move.”

Before his visit to Africa, Obama called on developed nations to raise $20 billion over three years to help fight hunger, and to teach better food independence in the continent. Obama's speech however contained little in terms of specific help that America would offer African nations.

1 comment:

AB said...

Unfortunately, I have to say I disagree with Obama's stance on Africa. For a man who claims greater literacy on African issues than his predecessors, it is sad that he is offering more of the same.

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