Peter K. LeMaire
Bernice A. LeMaire
information concerning AfricaUpdate
In this issue of Africa Update we
discuss President Obama’s speech during his visit to Ghana in July 2009.
The Canadian critic,Stephen Gowans, provides incisive details of U.S
foreign policy in various African regions, including the Congo,Zimbabwe
and Somalia,pointing out that Obama’s suggestions for Africa’s growth,
as laid out in his speech, would simply continue the dependency
syndrome, rather than break it. He also makes interesting comments on
the racial bias of current War Crimes Tribunals in the course of his
discussion which focuses on four major misconceptions in the Obama
speech. ‘The deformities of the post-colonial system’ and unequal
development in a global scale, were issues not touched by the Son of
Africa, returning to the land of his forebears.So argues Professor
Zeleza in his piece, first published in ‘zeleza.com.’ The Distinguished
Professor concludes with an interesting take on the real meaning of
President Obama’s visit to Ghana.
Today I come to you with greatest humility, from a country which is now emerging from an orgy of corruption. My administration is committed to put an end to this culture of corruption on Wall Street, in the banking sector, in health care and in various corporations. You may be aware that the entire global financial system has been on the verge of collapse since September of 2008 because of us. My administration has successfully intervened. Our stimulus package of about $800 billion dollars has been deployed, and, thanks to Larry Summers, Tim Gaither, Ben Bernanke and others, with my direction and leadership, we stand a fair chance of stabilizing the economy and the global economic system which was spiraling towards economic collapse. We are confident that we can turn things around. Yes we can - and Africans, too, can fight against prevailing systems of corruption .Yes you can.
Kayode Animahaun’s focus on Nigerian actresses and the Nigerian video industry, highlights the dilemma of female actresses taking on certain roles, and the impact of these roles on their private lives. Dr. Animashaun carries out an interesting survey across genders and arrives at some interesting conclusions. We conclude this issue with the first of a two-part series on the Harlem Book Fair of summer 2009. Urban literature is thriving and we have a brief look at some of the emerging writers in this popular genre.
Dr. Gloria Emeagwali
It should come as a surprise to no one but the weakly na´ve and
politically untutored that the role of the US president in Africa is to
promote and defend the interests of the United States. This is so, even
if the US president shares the skin color of Africa’s majority. What may
not be so apparent, but which is true nevertheless, is that Obama
represents the interests of his country’s hereditary capitalist
families, banks, corporations and wealthy investors whose resources and
backing have brought him to power, and in whose interests the logic of
imperialism compels him to act. It is Obama’s goal as representative of
US capital to open, and keep open, Africa’s vast resources to
exploitation by Western, and particularly US, capital without
impediments of corruption, war and pan-African, nationalist or socialist
projects of independent development getting in the way.
During the years of its rapid economic growth, south Korea did not follow the development path Obama prescribes for Africa today. Instead, it built five-year 20 industrial plans that singled out industries the government would nurture through tariff protection, subsidies and government support. Foreign currencies necessary for importing machinery and industrial inputs were accumulated through foreign exchange controls, whose violation was punishable by death. 
The government completely regulated foreign investment, welcoming it in some areas but banning it in others. Attitudes toward intellectual property were lax, with south Korean businesses encouraged to reverse engineer Western technology and pirate the West’s patented products. This approach to development was the rule, not the exception. Virtually every developed country has followed the same path, using tariffs, subsidies and discrimination against foreign investors, to industrialize. The first countries to adopt free trade, apart from Britain, where weak countries on whom free trade was imposed by colonial masters. The free trade was typically one-way. Countries in Asia and Africa barely grew economically during the period of colonial rule, while Western Europe – the beneficiary of one-way free trade — grew rapidly. Latin America also grew strongly, but at the time, followed an import-substitution model, not the open markets model industrial powerhouses favored because it favored them.
Under the rule of Britain, the United States was treated much as African countries are today. It was denied the use of tariffs to protect its fledgling industry. It was barred from exporting products that competed with British products. And it was encouraged, through subsides, to concentrate on agriculture. Manufacturing industry was to be left to the British. Alexander Hamilton rejected this model, creating an infant industry program that allowed the United States to industrialize rapidly. Hamilton’s program — which remained the basis of US economic policy up to World War II — created the highest tariff barriers in the world. US federal mining laws restricted ownership of mines to US citizens and businesses incorporated in the United States. (When Zimbabwe’s government developed legislation to require majority Zimbabwean ownership of the country’s resources, along the lines of earlier US policy, it was denounced for grossly mismanaging the economy.) Other developed countries also used foreign ownership restrictions to help them industrialize. Prior to 1962, Japan restricted foreign ownership to 49 percent and banned it altogether in certain industries.
In his speech, Obama created the impression that South Korea developed rapidly because it followed policies the World Bank endorses, while at the same time Africa stagnated, because it didn’t. This is doubly false. Not only did South Korea not follow World Bank policies – in fact, it did the very opposite – Africa has been practically run by the IMF and World Bank since the 1980s. Under their guidance, African living standards have worsened, not improved. Over the same period, the Wester n world’s financial elite which exercises enormous influence over the World Bank and IMF – saw its wealth expand greatly.
Corruption, Obama argues, and not the legacy of colonialism, has also held Africa back. There must, he insists, be “concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability. "These measures are desirable. But spectacular corruption in Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China did not hold these countries back. The critical issue in development isn’t whether corruption happens, but whether the dirty money stays in the country. Mobutu took stolen money out of Zaire, wrecking the Zairian economy.
But massive corruption and economic growth can co-exist, if the dirty
money is invested in the expansion of the country’s productive assets.
Moreover, corruption is more a consequence, and less a cause, of
underdevelopment. Poor countries, because they’re poor, pay meager
salaries to government officials. This increases the likelihood
officials will stoop to corruption to pad their paltry incomes. And
limited government budgets mean there are few resources to prevent
graft. But Obama’s concern about corruption has little to do with its
role in hindering development, and everything to do with safeguarding
the investments of US banks, corporations and wealthy US citizens. US
investors don’t want to invest their capital in countries where the
returns can be stolen by corrupt government officials, any more than
they want to invest in countries in which there is a high risk of
expropriation by nationalist or socialist governments, following paths
of independent development. A major foreign policy function of the US
president is to create safe and stable overseas environments in which US
businesses and investment
(1) disrupt and disorganize a united front of the oppressed against
the oppressor; and
The imperialist country must maintain a guiding hand, it is said,
otherwise the ethnic and religious tensions that roil beneath the
surface will spill over into open warfare. The massacres in Rwanda have
served the useful purpose for the West of reinforcing the imperialist
idea that Africans are ready on the flimsiest pretext to go on bloody
rampages out of atavistic tribal bloodlust. Exploitation, oppression,
unequal access to critical resources, and foreign meddling: none of
these causes of conflicts in Africa figure in Western accounts. Instead,
the causes of war are to be understood to originate in
irrational hatred. And irrational hatred, the narrative goes, is best
held in check by Western powers.
And that’s because there has never really been anything Africa could
do about the unfair bargain the West has forced upon it, except to unite
and pursue a path of self-reliant development, drawing upon its
own20immense resources and seeking out critical machine and industrial
inputs from sympathetic countries. It didn’t have the military power to
force the doors of
What could African countries do — stop all exports of groundnuts,
tobacco or bananas to force the West to open its doors? Doing so would
hardly hurt the West, but would deprive Africa of the foreign exchange
it uses to import a multitude of goods it depends on the West to
provide. To put it succinctly: the West has always had Africa over a
The goal of the program was to reclaim prized agricultural land
stolen by force by European settlers. The land was to be redistributed
to indigenous farmers. And it has been. Zimbabwe has democratized land
ownership patterns, distributing land previously owned by 4,000 farmers,
Until 2000, land reform moved at a snail’s pace. As part of a
negotiated settlement with Britain, the independence movement agreed to
a willing buyer-willing seller arrangement, whereby land could only be
acquired for redistribution if the owner wanted to sell. This
restriction was to remain in effect for the first 10 years of
independence. Since most farmers of European
The Mugabe government chose the latter course, setting off alarm bells in Western capitals. Mugabe couldn’t be allowed to get away with uncompensated expropriation of productive property. Analyses that attributed Zimbabwe’s economic disaster to mismanagement overlooked the reaction of Washington to the Mugabe government’s lese majesty against private property.
For not only did the turn of the century mark the beginning of
fast-track land reform, it also marked the passage of the US Democracy
and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA.)
(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit,
or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe; or
Since ZDERA was passed in 2001, Washington has blocked all lines of credit, development assistance and balance of payment support from international lending institutions to Zimbabwe.
When the act was passed, then US president George W. Bush declared his hope that “the provisions of this important legislation will support the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle to effect peaceful democratic change, achieve economic growth, and restore the rule of law.” Since effecting peaceful democratic change meant ousting the Zanu-PF government and restoring the rule of law meant forbidding the uncompensated expropriation of white farm land, what Bush was really saying was that he hoped the legislation would help overthrow the government and put an end to fast-track land reform.
ZDERA was co-drafted by one of the opposition MDC’s white parliamentarians, and introduced as a bill in the US Congress in March of 2001 by the Republican senator, William Frist. The legislation was co-sponsored by the Republican right wing senator, Jesse Helms, and the Democratic senators Hilary Clinton (now Secretary of State), Joseph Biden (now Vice-President) and Russell Feingold. Helms died in early July, 2008. He denounced the 1964 Civil Rights Act, was a spokesman for the tobacco industry and was a slum landlord. He opposed school bussing, compensation for Japanese Americans and Communists. He complained that public schools were being used “to teach our children that cannibalism, wife-swapping, and the murder of infants and the elderly are acceptable behavior.”  Helms was also fond of sanctions. He co-authored the Helms-Burton Act of 1996, which tightened the blockade on Cuba.
The MDC had always been reluctant to admit that sanctions had crippled Zimbabwe’s economy, and more reluctant still to call for their removal. This is to be expected. In opposition, the MDC’s goal was to blame the government for the country’s economic difficulties. If it could do so convincingly, and at the same time persuade voters it could do a better job, it chances of prevailing at the polls would increase accordingly. Likewise, if it refused to add to the pressure on Western governments to lift sanctions, and even encouraged Western governments to maintain or escalate them, the government would remain burdened with the political liability of an ailing economy. But times have changed. The MDC has formed a coalition government with Zanu-PF, and the MDC controls the finance ministry. Sanctions are no longer in the20party’s interest, and the MDC has, as a consequence, changed its tune. Not only does it now acknowledge ZDERA, the finance minister, Tendai Biti, complains about it bitterly.
“The World Bank has right now billions and billions of dollars that we have access to but we can’t access those dollars unless we have dealt with and normalized our relations with the IMF. We cannot normalize our relations with the IMF because of the voting power, it’s a blocking voting power of America and people who represent America on that board cannot vote differently because of ZDERA.” 
As bad as ZDERA is, it’s not the only sanctions regime the United States has used to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy. Addressing the Senate Foreign Relations African Affairs Subcommittee, Jendaya Frazer, who was George W. Bush’s top diplomat in Africa, noted that the United States had imposed financial and travel restrictions on 135 individuals and 30 businesses. US citizens and corporations who violate the sanctions face penalties ranging from $250,000 to $500,000. “We are looking to expand the category of Zimbabweans who are covered. We are also looking at sanctions on government entities as well, not just individuals.” She added that the US Treasury Department was looking into ways to target sectors of Zimbabwe’s critical mining industry. 
On July 25, 2008 Bush announced that sanctions on Zimbabwe would be stepped up. He=2 0outlawed US financial transactions with a number of key Zimbabwe companies and froze their US assets. The enterprises included: the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (which controls all mineral exports); the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company; Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe; Osleg, or Operation Sovereign Legitimacy, the commercial arm of Zimbabwe’s army; Industrial Development Corporation; the Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe; ZB Financial Holdings; and the Agriculture Development Bank of Zimbabwe. 
In early March 2009, Obama extended sanctions for another year,
It would be more accurate to say that US sanctions pose a continuing
unusual and extraordinary threat to the economy of Zimbabwe.
Jaw dropping hypocrisy
Indeed, there are wars over land and wars over resources, and this, the United States knows well, for over the course of its history it has initiated many of them, and most of the wars over land and resources over the past 60 years have been planned at the Pentagon. The United States’ vast military, which Washington methodically nurtures through the misappropriated tax dollars of ordinary US citizens, allows the country to dominate and plunder much of the world, while at the same time piling up profits for US corporations engaged in “defense” industry work.
Particularly galling is the reality that the United States had a hand in the bloodiest and deadliest war on the continent. In early May 1997, when it became apparent to western observers that the broad coalition of rebel forces in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) headed by veteran freedom fighter, Laurent Kabila, would eventually topple the Mobutu kleptocracy and establish ‘a popular government, linking all sectors of our society,’ the Financial Times, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and others in the corporate media slowly began to criticize the ‘excesses’ of the CIA-installed Mobutu regime, in power since 1965. But at the same time they began a relentless campaign against Kabila and the rebel coalition. The Wall Street Journal spoke of Kabila as an ‘ideological throwback’ to the politics of the 1960s. It decried his relationship with Che Guevara, who had gone to the Congo in the early l960s to work with a progressive coalition (including Kabila) to support the Patrice Lumumba forces and to oust another CIA-installed regime, which had been installed in the diamond-rich region of Katanga. The Journal warned that ‘western interests’ would now be in jeopardy under Kabila. For thirteen months, Kabila sought to consolidate a broad coalition to democratize and develop the Congo. But by August 1998, two neighboring states, Rwanda and Uganda, aligned with ethnic forces inside the Congo, (and backed by Washington) invaded several towns and cities. Both invading countries charged Kabila with ‘corruption’ and human rights violations, and with being ‘undemocratic.’
Rwanda and Uganda are governed by de facto military regimes. Both governments are hosts to U.S. military training facilities and U.S. military personnel. The Congo has been regarded by leading scientists and economists as one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world. It contains roughly 70 percent of the world’s cobalt. More than half of the U.S. military’s cobalt comes from the Congo. It is the second largest producer of diamonds in the world and is known for large deposits of gold, manganese, and copper. The Congo’s peculiar type of high-grade uranium was used by the U.S. to make the atom bombs that were dropped on Japan in WWII. And the U.S. dominates mining in that area even today. An estimated five million died in the war from 1998 to 2003. The conflict continues, with 45,000 people dying each month from war-related causes, primarily hunger and disease.  And yet war in the DRCongo is barely mentioned in the Western media. Instead, attention is focused on Darfur, home to vast oil reserves the United States does not control, but would like to lay its hands on. Raising public alarm over Darfur is a way of manufacturing consent for Western intervention in Sudan. The outcome – and unstated goal – of such an intervention would be to bring another oil-rich country under Washington’s domination.
The United Nations has estimated some 300,000 may have died in total as a result of the years of conflict in Darfur; the same number die from the Congo conflict every six and a half months. And yet, in the New York Times, which covers the Congo more than most U.S. outlets, Darfur has consistently received more coverage since it emerged as a media story in 2004. The Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. 
Washington also orchestrated a recent war in Somalia. In 2006, the US-backed, UN-recognized government of Somalia was limited to the inland town of Baidoa. Mogadishu, the capital, had fallen to Islamic militias, who had formed a de facto government in June of that year. The militias’ power wasn’t based on their military strength, which consisted only of a few hundred armed pickup trucks and a few thousand fighters, but in their popular support. In the capital Mogadishu, the Islamists organized neighborhood cleanups, delivered food to the needy and brought dormant national institutions like the Supreme Court back to life.
According to Ted Dagne, the African analyst at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, the de facto government provided “a sense of stability in Somalia, education and other services, while the warlords maimed and killed innocent civilians.” What’s more, “instead of acting like the Taliban and ruthlessly imposing a harsh religious orthodoxy” the Islamists delivered social services and pushed for democratic elections.That’s when General John P. Abizaid of the United States Central Command, or Centcom, flew to neighboring Ethiopia to meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who told the US proconsul that he could cripple the Islamist forces in one to two weeks.
Abizaid gave the Ethiopian prime minister the go ahead, and soon Ethiopian soldiers — trained by US military advisors — were flooding over the border into Somalia.  The United States supplied battlefield intelligence, the US Fifth Fleet enforced a naval blockade, US Marines deployed along Somalia’s border with Kenya, and US AC-130 gunships, operating out of Djibouti, struck targets within Somalia. The invasion was a brazen affront to the United Nations Charter. Somalia hadn’t threatened Ethiopia, and indeed, couldn’t. With a few hundred armed pickup trucks, Somali forces posed no danger to surrounding countries. And yet there wasn’t a peep a protest from the “international community”. The war created what has been called Africa’s largest and most ignored catastrophe. One million Somalis were displaced.
Some 10,000 were killed.  And the United States, whose president counsels Africans to learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, started it. To discourage what Obama views as Africa’s addiction to war, the US president pledged to “stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable.” What he didn’t say was that he meant African war criminals, and only the ones who aren’t puppets of the West. Obama has no intention of holding accountable either Meles Zenawi or Western war criminals (his predecessor, former British prime minister Tony Blair) or CIA operatives who used torture and those who authorized their crimes. Instead, he says, he would rather look forward, not backward. White war criminals are to be forgiven; black war criminals are to be held accountable.
The body through which most African war criminals are to be held
accountable is the International Criminal Court (ICC), a court the
United States itself refuses to join, on grounds its soldiers and
officials would face frivolous prosecutions. If the United States would
face frivolous prosecutions, why not other countries? The ICC has
received 2,889 communications about alleged war crimes and crimes
against humanity in at least 139 countries, and yet by March 2009, the
prosecutor had opened investigations into just four cases: Uganda, DR
Congo, the Central African Republic, and Sudan/Darfur. All of them in
Africa. Thirteen public warrants of arrest have been issued, all against
Africans. Conspicuously absent from the list of opened
investigations are the perpetrators of the world’s most blatant recent
war crimes: the US, Britain and Israel. Yes, but “there cannot be an
African exception to (the Nuremberg) principles,” argues David Crane,
chief prosecutor for the special court on Sierra Leone (which is trying
former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, for doing what practically
every US president since World War II has done: support rebel troops in
another country.) Crane’s “no African exceptions” cry is taken up by the
Western media. Referring to Taylor’s trial, Guardian columnist Phil
Clark, wrote that “for many, the trial represents another victory for
international justice and another signal for the end of impunity for the
likes of Taylor, Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Alberto
Fujimori.”  He might have added, but not for George W. Bush, Tony
Blair, P.W. Botha, and Ian Smith. The Western media and state officials
don’t seem to be concerned about the impunity of these war criminals.
The reality that there have been many African exceptions to humanitarian
law – where whites are concerned – seems to have escaped the notice of
Crane, a white US citizen, prosecuting Taylor, a black African. Martin
Kargbo wonders why the West insists that black Africans be held
accountable, while celebrating the truth and reconciliation commissions
which have granted impunity to white war criminals. Impunity has not
been an issue in DR Congo where the wars waged by Rwanda and Uganda
between 1996 and 2003 on behalf of America and Western interests have
led to an estimated five million deaths in Congo…Impunity, again, was
not an issue when South Africa decided in 1994, in the interest of
national peace and stability to forgive the perpetrators of war crimes
and crimes against humanity – people who had terrorized and killed black
Africans for 50 long years during the apartheid era. And no human rights
group said it was wrong to forgive P.W. Botha & Co. Impunity was also
not an issue when Zimbabwe decided in 1980 in the interest of national
peace and stability to forgive the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes
against humanity – people who had terrorized and killed black Africans
for decades before independence. And no human rights group said it
was wrong to forgive Ian Smith and others. Impunity was again not an
issue when Namibia did the same thing in 1990 — to forgive the
atrocities committed against black people during the pre-independence
era. And no human rights group spoke against Namibia’s act of
Promoting the profit interests of US capital
And why wouldn’t it? Foreign capital, like all capital, wants to maximize profits. So it demands a low wage environment, unburdened by corporate taxes or stringent environmental regulations, in which profits can be taken out of the country, and in which governments abjure efforts to meet social goals by making demands on corporations and investors. Those with capital to invest don’t want to pay high taxes (or any taxes at all if they can get away with it), comply with expensive environmental regulations, pay high wages, or be forced to take on local partners. They don’t want to have to invest any of their profits in the host country if a higher return on investment can be obtained elsewhere. Neither do foreign corporations and investors want local governments to give local businesses a hand up by offering subsidies and tariff protections. And they don’t want profitable areas of investment – like energy, telecommunication and banking – placed off limits. In short, all of the measures a local government might implement to satisfy local development needs – mandated re-investment of profits, state-controlled enterprises, foreign investment restrictions, price controls and meaningful minimum wage laws, a heavily graduated tax, and so on — are anathema to foreign capital. In addition, foreign corporations, banks and investors want a business environment that is free from the threat of disruption by war, strikes and insurrections, and in which private productive property is protected from corruption and expropriation. Delivering what businesses want is called good governance.
As Obama explained, no country is going to create wealth (Obama means: for investors) if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. 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. In Washington’s view, good governance is created when societies are sufficiently open to domination by those who own the most wealth – that is, by those who own and control the world economy. For example, multi-party electoral democracy is lauded because it allows those who assume a leadership role in representing the interests of capital, to have the best chance of being elected. They’re able to attract the funding that allows them to run effective campaigns. And what, as a consequence, ends up being a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, has enormous apparent legitimacy because it is based on an electoral exercise.
Likewise, a “free” society in which “anyone” can open a newspaper can seem to legitimately have independent journalists, even though the only people in a position to open their own newspaper and command a mass audience are members of the class that owns the society’s productive property. An open society with a vibrant civil society which participates in the society’s governance is also one in which the wealthy can pursue their interests by furnishing the funding on which civil society depends. This allows capital to influence the agenda of civil society through its funding decisions. In short, any government trying to achieve authentically democratic goals can be more readily opposed if it provides sufficient space for foreign capital to operate through strong parliaments, independent journalists and a vibrant civil society. Accordingly, Obama speaks glowingly of institutions that open up space for foreign money to operate : “In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success – strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives.
In point of fact, what matters in peoples’ lives — that is, in the
lives of ordinary people, and not the bankers, corporate lawyers and
CEOs that Obama cares about — is having enough to eat, a job, shelter,
clothing, health care, recreation, time with friends and family, dignity
and social justice. Strong parliaments, journalists employed by the
capitalist press, and a strong private sector, create environments
adapted to capital accumulation; they have little to do with restoring
stolen land to its rightful owners; investing the economic surplus
created at home in local development; and using state-owned enterprises
and fiscal and monetary policy to satisfy social welfare goals.
Under the leadership of Zanu-PF, Zimbabweans have tried to build their own country according to their own needs, expropriating land confiscated by European settlers when the former colonial master, Britain, reneged on its promise to fund land reform. Zanu-PF has also led efforts to bring Zimbabwe’s resources and economy under the control of indigenous Zimbabweans, following methods reminiscent of the ones south Korea used to industrialize. But while south Korea’s subsidies, tariff protections and foreign ownership restrictions were tolerated by Washington as a necessary evil of the Cold War –- south Korea needed to be given space to develop into a capitalist showpiece on the Cold War’s frontlines – Washington has been unwilling to tolerate Zimbabwe’s efforts to follow the same path.
Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana, the first African country to achieve
independence, argued that the less developed world would not become
developed through the goodwill and generosity of the developed world.
Instead, it would only become developed by struggle against the external
forces – foreign corporations, banks and investors — that had a vested
interest in keeping it underdeveloped.  Nkrumah would have agreed
with Obama that “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” He would surely
have disagreed with Obama’s prescription for how Africa ought to arrive
at its future.
2. “President Signs Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act, December 21, 2001. www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/12/200111221-15.html
3. The Guardian (UK), July 4, 2008.
4. The Herald (Zimbabwe) May 5, 2009.
5. TalkZimbabwe.com, July 16, 2008.
6. The New York Times, July 26, 2008; The Washington Post, July 26, 2008; The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe), July 27, 2008.
7. “Obama extends Zimbabwe sanctions,” TalkZimbabwe.com, March 8, 2009.
8. US Census Bureau Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007, August 2008.
9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.
10. US Bureau of Justice Statistics, cited in Hannah Holle man, Robert W. McChesney, John Bellamy Foster and R. Jamil Jonna, “The Penal State in an Age of Crisis,” Monthly Review, Vol. 61, No. 2, June, 2009.
11. Elombe Brath and Samori Marksman, “Conflict in the Congo: An Interview with President Laurent Kabila,” Covert Action Quarterly, Winter, 1999, Issue 66.
12. Julie Hollar, “Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten,”
Extra, Magazine of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, May 2009.
14. Stephen Gowans, “US fomenting war in Somalia,” What’s Left, December 15, 2006, http://gowans.blogspot.com/2006/12/us-fomenting-war-in-somalia.html
15. Stephen Gowans, “Another US military intervention,” What’s Left, January 11, 2007, http://gowans.blogspot.com/2007/01/another-us-military-intervention.html
16. Stephanie McCrummen, “With Ethiopian pullout, Islamists rise again in Somalia,” The Washington Post, January 22, 2009; Stephen Gowans, “Spielberg: Chauvinist in humanitarian drag,” What’s Left, February 13, 2008. http://gowans.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/spielberg-chauvinist-in-humanitarian-drag/
17. “Selective Justice,” The New African, No. 484, May 2009.
18. Phil Clark, “Can Africa trust international justice?” The Guardian (UK) July 16, 2009.
19. Martin Kargbo, “The case against the ICC, New African, July, 2009.
20. Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., London, 1965.
Professor Paul Tiyambe Zeleza
As expected, President Obama delivered a powerful speech in Accra yesterday, which was at once a sermon, a lecture, and a call to arms for Africa to take charge of its destiny, for Africans to assume full responsibility for their future. He presented it with his trademark eloquence and earnestness, combined with the rhetorical intimacy and tough love that he reserves for African American audiences."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," he declared as he discussed Africa in concrete personal terms rather than abstract pathological ones. He boldly outlined Africa's ills and squarely laid their cure in African agency: "We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans." What would have been patronizing and provoked racialized anger coming from a Euroamerican leader was instead largely greeted with glee and cheers of approval.
Every so often he talked about his father and his generation. He was the returning dutiful son who sought to right the wrongs that derailed the dreams of his father's generation for true decolonization, democracy, and development. The audience understood, embracing him with eager affection. This is what allowed President Obama to talk to Ghana's parliamentarians and other dignitaries at the Accra International Conference Center and through it to the larger continent in a way that Africans often talk among themselves. It was as if he was entering a family conversation informed by his perspectives as a son of the diaspora.
Many Africans passionately discuss and heroically struggle daily to create strong and sustainable democratic governments that promote development capable of providing opportunity for more people, strengthening public health, and avoiding conflicts or seeking to end conflicts, the four themes of President Obama's address. The president indeed acknowledged and paid homage to these struggles and the aspirations for African peoples to realize the enduring and unfilled dreams of the liberation struggles of his father's generation. But progressive African activists don't stop there: their trenchant critiques of the failings of postcolonial Africa are often accompanied by equally sharp appraisals of the unequal global system that has made the task of realizing the dreams of independence harder. This is not simply blaming colonialism, as the president said. Colonialism in Africa is no more an irrelevant relic of history as slavery and racial segregation are in the U.S. Those who urge Africans or African Americans to forget their histories of oppression and exploitation often do so because they don't want to face up to the culpability of their communities or countries in the continuing reproduction of inequalities at national and global levels. They are of course not averse to invoking history when it suits their purposes, especially when they seek to celebrate their eternal cultural or national superiority. Africa's contemporary structural and institutional systems reflect complex intersections of the legacies of colonialism, neocolonialism, and the deformities of postcolonial political cultures. It is analytically difficult, even if it is politically tempting, to separate 'internal' and 'external' dynamics behind Africa's challenges and crises, for what often appears as 'internal' already embodies the 'external' and vice-versa.
This is not an argument for absolving Africa and its leaders of
responsibility for the democratization and development of their
countries. It is simply to call for an equally honest evaluation of the
role the West including the United States have played in Africa not only
during the slave and colonial pasts but continue to play now. The
contemporry dynamics of African-Euroamerican relations continue to be
conditioned and informed by the structures and ideologies bequeathed by
those very unsavory histories. Nowhere in the president's speech did he
refer to the sordid records of the U.S. government and corporations in
undermining democracy and development across Africa by supporting
dictatorships and corruption. Unfortunately, old habits die hard for the
U.S. is still supporting dictators who suit its strategic interests, for
example in Ethiopia and Uganda, not to mention Egypt, which was
'honored' with the president's first visit to Africa.
Incidentally, the fact that the president himself and the media presented the visit to Ghana as his first to 'sub-Saharan Africa' is a testimony to the enduring power of colonial discourse itself. Indeed, the speech was largely framed in colonialist terms in so far as Africa was presented as the source of its own problems and the U.S. as the unproblematic partner for Africa's advancement. Given Africa's tragic history with Euroamerica, that is the language of patronage, not partnership.
This is not to question the brilliance of the speech or its resonance with Africans who indeed aspire to establishing democratic developmental states which provide greater opportunities for improved material and social and even moral lives. After all, that is what the struggles for the 'first independence' in the 1950s and 1960s and for the 'second independence' since the late 1980s have been all about.
There can be no question, as the President himself said in an interview  before the trip, "I'm probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who's occupied my office. And I can give you chapter and verse on why the colonial maps that were drawn helped to spur on conflict, and the terms of trade that were uneven emerging out of colonialism." He is also well versed about many other problems including the duplicities of tied aid: "One of the concerns that I have with our aid policy generally is that western consultants and administrative costs end up gobbling huge percentages of our aid overall."
But this is not about President Obama's personal understanding of African realities, which I believe are as good as one can find among the continent's leading intellectuals and politicians. Nor is this about President Obama's sincerety or likeability, both of which he has in abundance. It is about the policies of the U.S. government that he heads, whose record inspires caution, even suspicion, among many informed African.
I was quite moved by the story of President Obama's father whose career was derailed by tribalism in Kenya, and the fact that Kenya "which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea's when I was born, [has] been badly outpaced." But one could also point to millions of Africans who have had successful careers since independence or African countries that have outpaced some countries in Asia. Lest we forget there are still more poor people in Asia than in Africa.
I am sure many ordinary Africans and activists were thrilled to hear
an inspiring American president, whose own story personifies the triumph
of audacious hope, lend his support to their struggles for sustainable
development and democracy notwithstanding the previous policies of his
country's successive governments. His attack of venal leaders and
autocracies despite the farce of periodic elections was certainly music
to my ears.
Also, while the president stated categorically that he saw "Africa as
a fundamental part of our interconnected world," which he sought to
underscore by coming to Ghana immediately after his visits to Russia and
the G8 summit instead of the obligatory end-of-term whistle political
safaris of his predecessors seeking some adoration and respite from low
approval ratings at home, there was not a peep about transforming the
institutions of global economic and political governance from the World
Bank and IMF to the United Nations Security Council which would bring
Africa into world councils of power for its interests to be more fully
articulated and represented.
The same writer also wished Obama would announce an overdue radical review of the eligibility criteria for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the Millennium Challenge, which "discourages and undermines Africa's capacity to produce by imposing US intellectual property, imposing privatization and insisting as a precondition that governments are not directly engaged in economic activities. It also discourages them from using industrial policies to move out of commodity dependence and by using technical assistance as a means to cajole governments to implement trade liberalization policies which directly undermine the goal of diversifying their economies.... If Obama really does mean to promote value-added production in Africa he should indicate that the era of the extremes of economic ideology is over, that Africans are unlikely to ever break out of primary commodity production and joblessness without an active but balanced role of the state in investments, manufacturing and in enhancing their share of the value chain. Such a strategy already exists in Africa."
And for all the railing against corruption, the president was silent
on tax-dodging and the practices of US corporations that perpetuate
corruption. For example, earlier this year Halliburton  was charged
$559 million to settle a bribery case involving Nigeria. If the U.S. was
serious about stopping tax-dodging and encouraging corporate
transparency one estimates suggests this would put US$50 billion or more
into the African economy annually. It cannot be overemphasized that
corruption in Africa, a bane on development, is often facilitated by
western corporations and oiled by western banks. Remember Africa's
looted wealth sits in western not African banks and until the recent
financial crisis which has forced western governments to tighten banking
regulations they were happy hoarding such ill-gotten riches from the
continent in the proverbial names of corporate freedom and banking
Ghana combines two poignant symbols of some of the momentous events that the continent has experienced over the last few centuries: the slave trade and decolonization. Coastal Ghana was a major shipping center in the Atlantic slave trade and it became one of the first countries to get independence (Libya was the first in 1951). Added to this is the fact that Ghana is also an English-speaking nation, all of which have given the country a special place in the African American imagination. It is now home to thousands of repatriated African Americans.
Ghana's independence in 1957 electrified the Pan-African world. As President Obama reminded his audience, the power of Ghana's march to freedom inspired none other than the then "young preacher named Martin Luther King [who] traveled here, to Accra, to watch the Union Jack come down and the Ghanaian flag go up. This was before the march on Washington or the success of the civil rights movement in my country. Dr. King was asked how he felt while watching the birth of a nation. And he said: 'It renews my conviction in the ultimate triumph of justice.'
The parliamentarians and the multitudes beyond across the continent listened intently and excitedly, overwhelmed not necessarily by his message, which was quite predictable, but at the historical eloquence of his very presence as an African American president whose father went on the Kenyan Airlift program to study in the U.S. during the turbulent and euphoric days of decolonization only some fifty years ago, not as human cargo in the horrific days of the Atlantic slave trade centuries ago.
This partly explains Africa's Obamamania. He is celebrated with unadulterated joy because he is a member of the new diasporas, the millions of Africans who have migrated to the U.S. and around the world in recent decades, while he simultaneously connects them through his wife to the historic diasporas in the Americas .The visit to Cape Coast Castle was the true highlight of the visit, an emotionally wrenching experience that rattled the ever cool President, reminding him and the world of the inhuman cruelties out of which the Atlantic diasporas were born, and the deep and painful bonds and memories that tie him, the son of a Kenyan migrant student, and his wife, Michelle, a descendant of the enslaved Africans, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, children who, he poignantly noted , are "descendants of Africans and African Americans."
This was a symbolic return of a native son with his spouse from the historic diaspora and two lovely children who are products of both. It is this story, the marriage of the new and historic diasporas, the connection between Africa and its diasporas, that enthralls, energizes, and empowers Africans on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond.
* Dr. Zeleza becomes Dean of the Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts
at Loyola Marymount University in the fall.
Nigerian Video Movies as Curators of Norms”
Out of the 1500 questionnaires distributed, 1290 were used for this
study. The remaining consisted of some that were badly filled and not
usable for the study, as well as those not returned. Analyses of data
are therefore based on the responses of the 1290 that were properly
filled. The 1290 respondents were grouped according to gender. A
break down shows that 750 were male, while 540 were female.
Using the NoSRA tool of analysis therefore, the fact that 400 men
said the movie women were not marriageable; 220 were not sure ; and 244
women said they could not recommend them as spouses, it can be inferred
The actresses can feel threatened by the effect of the negative interpretations and perceptions, extra-cinematically, as is seen in some write-ups that do not attempt to correct but expose the women to ridicule (Musa 2004). Where this happens, they may feel so threatened and withdraw. In this Social Adjustment Disorder [SAD] situation, instead of withdrawing and become public shy, the socially intimidated character may decide to confront it by continuing to do what is being condemned. By this, she would attempt to impose herself on the society and in the process may unwittingly be destroying both herself and the society (Mailin et al 1999). This is the situation with Corsy Orjiakor , and also Jolade Ekeinde, who took up the alias “Omo Sexy” as a way to browbeat the audiences’ reactions against their roles in some movies such as Outkast and The Prostitute (Njamah 2004).
These actresses may have become socially deviant after continuous
exposures to slanderous media reports, because of their appearance in
roles perceived as bad (Animasaun 2007).
We should note that several Nigerian actresses were identified for their intelligence and creativity. Actresses like Sola Sobowale, Hauwa Ali Dodo, Joke Jacobs, Liz Benson Fatima, Baraji, and Peju Ogunmola fall within this classification.
Bonner Frances and Goodman Lizbeth  ‘On imagining women’ in Bonner F; Goodman R. James L. and King, C. [eds] Imagining Women: Cultural representations and gender. Polity Press/The Open University. Cambridge 1-12
Cortes C.E. (2000) The Children Are Watching: How the Media Teach
about Diversity. New York. Teachers College Press p 43.
Fosudo Sola (2002) From the Documentary Film and Video in Nigeria:-
Pioneers and Practitioners Nigerian Film Institute Jos.
Lovdal L.I. (1989): ‘Sex Messages in TV Commercials: An update” Sex
Roles 21 715 – 724.
The Harlem Book Fair of Summer 2009’
The Eleventh Harlem Book Fair of July 18, 2009 turned out to be a bright, sunny, cheerful, colorful and informative festival of books. The Festival was located on West 135 Street between Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass Boulevards; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; The Countee Cullen Library and The Thurgood Marshall Academy. Panel discussions, motivational speeches and live performances of Jazz performers and musicians also helped to make the festival an unforgettable one. Among the fantastic performers of the event was Atiba Wilson, master of the Harmonica and singer of the blues, whose soulful rendition of Red River Blues could hardly be surpassed. His band of four instrumentalists, livened up the already energized audience. There is much more information about this spectacular performer and his group at ‘atibaworld.com.’
There were multiple vendors in 250 exhibit booths, and numerous authors of urban literature exhibiting their work, happily signing books and interacting with potential and actual readers. I had the pleasure of briefly interviewing about a dozen of these authors. They spoke about the broad themes of their work, their sources of inspiration and on- going literary activities that they were a part of, all quite excited about their work and their contributions to the fast growing and increasingly lucrative urban literary genre.
Among the interviewees were Shawn Page, China Ball, Charles
Ellison, Horace Mungin, Tra Verdejo, Neuma Taylor, James Alston,
Isadore Johnson, E. Weir, Crystal Brown and Wahida Clark,
the Queen of ‘Thug Love’ - one of the most celebrated writers
attending the Book Fair. Several of the other authors present
acknowledged her influence on their work. These were not extended
interviews but rather snippets captured on video, with the aim of
inspiring others to do more extended interviewing. The energy,
commitment, passion and confidence of these authors should inspire us