Saturday, July 11, 2009

Obama's Apology Tour, Sub-Saharan (Black) African Edition

President Obama's tour of Sub-Sarahan Africa (Black Africa) is receiving mainstream analysis as signifying a historic opportunity for the United States to address Africa's hardest problems. Obama, a black American, gains extra credibility for his family ties to Kenya and his personal knowledge of the region's history. As it turns out, though, Obama's choice of Ghana as a presidential backdrop has been poorly received in some quarters. The selection of Ghana could be a missed chance to showcase the continent's extremism, poverty, and health crises.

From Peter Wallsten, at the Los Angeles Times, "Obama in Africa: A Unique Presidential Visit." Wallsten argues that the president sees Ghana as a model democracy, representing a developmental path worth emulation for the larger conflict ridden society, but the administration's critics aren't pleased:

They cite the brief, in-and-out nature of his visit today to Ghana, and what they say is a slow-to-form policy toward troubled zones such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and Sudan.

The White House chose Ghana because it is an example of a successful African democracy. And Obama's defenders say the visit is one of several moves that emphasize the seriousness of his policy.

But critics see the West African countryas an overly simple backdrop. They hoped that Obama, based on his background and the depth of knowledge and concern he showed during an Africa tour as a senator in 2006, would dive headlong into vexing questions of extremism, poverty, AIDS and corruption in many parts of Africa.

Nicole Lee, executive director of TransAfrica Forum, a leading advocacy group, said there has been an "absolute passivity" in White House work so far on Africa's hardest problems.

"There was an assumption that this president, because of who he is, would lead us to a new policy," Lee said.

Obama spoke to Ghana's parliament in Accra. The New York Times has the report, "In Ghana, Obama Preaches Tough Love." In his address, the president spoke out against the region's wars, saying "These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck."

But the selection of Ghana holds a deeper significance: The larger reality is that Ghana served as the president's latest stop on his global apology tour. The president took his family to Cape Coast Castle on the West African coast. The visit at Cape Coast, a chief 17th-century headquarters for the European gold and slave trades, gave Obama another chance to mouth his anti-American apologism. The Hill captures the significance, "
Obama Says Slave Prison Represents Sadness and Hope":
In somber remarks, President Obama said visiting a slave trading outpost in Ghana brought him both sadness and hope.

Obama remarks came after a tour of the Cape Coast Castle, which sits on Ghana's coastline with the Atlantic Ocean. The castle is almost 500 years old and served as a slave trading outpost for European nations.

The first African American president said he felt two emotions as he took the tour.

"As African Americans, there is a special sense that on the one hand, this place was a place of profound sadness," Obama said....

Obama also drew a parallel between the prison and Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp he visited in early June, because "it reminds of us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil."

Obama spoke of the African American diaspora and the "portal" through which slaves were shipped around the globe.

In the tour, Obama saw the dark dungeons in the castle where men and woman slaves were held. When slaves were purchased, they were processed and passed through a "door of no return" when they boarded slave ships.

Obama said it was an "extraordinary tour" and, in particular, noted that right above the dungeon where male captives were held was a church.

"That reminds us that sometimes we can tolerate and stand by great evil even as we think we are doing good," Obama said.
Obama's words in Africa echo his comments on earlier legs of his world apology tour. See also, The Swamp, "Obama's African journey: 'Promise'."

And earlier from the world apology tour:

* "Barack Obama’s European Apology Tour."

* "The Obama Doctrine: Europe 1, America 0."

* "Rainbows and Unicorns and a World Without the J-Word."

* "The Apology Tour Continues in Latin America ."


M. Bouffant said...

Yeah, make sure you get "(Black)" in there, in case most of your readers don't know what Sub-Saharan Africa means.

There are some other words you could have used that your readers would probably know. "P. C. Police" got you scared?

Libby said...

..after the first few times, your apologies suck...then they make the people mad that you say you're apologizing for...that's when it turns into downright "groveling"!

Pug said...

From Obama's speech:

"We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.…

It is easy to point fingers and to pin the blame for these problems on others. But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.

No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers,” he said. “No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.

Africa doesn’t need strongmen. It needs strong institutions."

That's what you call an apology?

Rusty Walker said...

Shouldn’t a trip to Africa by an American president, leader of the free world, include some policy statements about Somalia? And, Darfur, Sudan, ethnic extermination, which is very much about oil rights? It is receiving less and less coverage yet still is a war of attrition that the United Nations and the U.S. seem to be ignoring, much like Rwanda genocide of the Clinton’s past apology.

Rusty Walker said...

...Distinguishing Southern Black Africa from Northern Arab Africa is perfectly appropriate.