UJ’s Dr David Monyae’s views on America’s leadership

​LIKE all occupancies of the White House, the Barack Obama moment will soon fade into a distant past. What promises to linger longer than Obama the man, is the paradox that his presidency pre- sented America and the world with. There was not any other part of the world more than Obama`s own ancestral continent – Africa – where this paradox was more pronounced.

Dr David Monyae, the Co-Director of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Confucius Institute (UJCI), penned an opinion piece entitled “The Paradox Barack Obama’s presidency presented the world“, published on the Sunday Independent (Dispatches), 15 January 2017.

The allure of brand Obama promised to be everything to everybody. `Yes We Can! ` sold a kaleidoscope of dreams for Americans, Africans and the world. Obama, the noble peace prize laureate, a man who brought hope for the realisation of a world in peace dropped more bombs through US drone strikes, than any other president in the history of America.

Obama received the illustrious prize for `his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples` before evidence of this diplomacy and co-operation was demonstrated. However, Obama`s expansion of the reckless use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) far and beyond the theatre of declared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan deep into Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Somalia is clearly recorded.

At times the strikes claimed civilian lives. For instance, The New York Times`s Scott Shane reported on July 3, 2016 that `an American cruise missile strike in Yemen on December 17, 2009 killed 41 civilians including 22 children and a dozen women`. As he bows out, `international diplomacy and co-operation` remains at an all-time low in stark contrast to his Nobel Prize halo.

And Chicago, a place where Obama cut his political teeth that culminated in his acceptance speech as the president-elect in 2008, has now recorded 762 people murdered in 2016. From the districts and communities that supported and hailed Obama`s rhetoric for change now come pleas for a declaration of a state of emergency.

Under his watch, institutional violence by law enforcement officers against African Americans was exceedingly high. This resulted in the birth of the `Black Lives Matter` movement. It appears from his well-polished farewell speech that Obama might have to restart all-over again the active citizenship to restart the dream that the years in the White House failed to realise. Given the striking similarities between American and South African histories of racial intolerance, one was reminded of African scholar Ben Okri`s Steve Biko memorial lecture in Cape Town in 2014, as Obama leaves the stage. `History is like a nightmare, we wake up from after a struggle and blink in stupefaction at the strangeness of daylight. With awakening a great energy is freed; a new question is posed: the nightmare is over but what do we do with the day?

`We do not have enough psychologists of history. Everyone seems to treat history as if our reaction to it should be logistical. The people have emerged from a mutual nightmare, what should they do upon awakening? What should anyone do after a long trauma? What can anyone do? `

The man with deep Kenyan roots pursued a brutal African policy on his father`s native continent that left a sitting president dead and plunged Libya into a hotbed of terrorism and north Africa in disarray. On June 4, 2009, Obama delivered a seminar speech in Cairo, Egypt, promising Africa and the Middle East a better relationship with the US.

`I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith. `

Libya is Obama`s greatest foreign policy failure. Like the Chicago communities he fondly mentioned in the Cairo speech, north Africa and the Middle East are today reeling from the aftermath of the murder of Muammar Gaddafi and the destruction of the command anc control state machinery in Libya planned in Paris and London aided by none other than Africa`s own great son, Obama.

Although Libya was never a democratic country under Gaddafi, its people enjoyed a more stable and better life than the democratic mirage sold to them. The lesson of Obama`s war of choice should be recorded as one of the greatest disastrous democratic experiments in modern history, where it was believed a country could be turned from autocratic rule into an oasis of democracy via aerial bombardment by external forces.

Throughout this episode in Libya, Obama refused to listen even to the African voice at the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He further twisted the hands of Africa`s regional powers in Pretoria and Abuja to betray the African agenda in endorsing UN Resolution 1973 which opened up the African skies to the worse bombardment since World War II.

Today, in Africa under the guise of counterterrorism, the Obama administration has expanded US military activities on the continent. When taking office in the midst of the 21st century`s greatest economic recession akin to the Great Depression of 1929, Obama rescued the barons of Wall Street more than the ordinary Americas Joe. The rhetoric of expanding trade in Africa bore no fruits. Instead, Bill Clinton and George W Bush delivered relatively bettel Africa policies than Obama with his direct ancestral roots in Afric The innuendo of the first black president of the US has left a macabre climate of intolerance it the US, Africa and the world.

The Hawaiian prince has close his chapter, and the world stands in ovation, with mixed feelings of happiness and sadness, for him and themselves.We have learned that what makes Barrack Hussein Obama unique, is not the fact that he is the first black president to occupy the White House. What distinguishes him from his predecessors is that he inherited an internally broken global hegemony whose time is up and unable to exercise Joseph Nye`s `Soft Power` in the world.

Sadly, the `Yes We Can` trademark is gradually turning into the language of `building walls`, racial intolerance, the erosion of international diplomacy and co-operation, against the liberal establishment and free trade at home and abroad. The Obama dream has given birth to Trumpism. What a paradox.

Monyae is a political analyst and co-director at the University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute.

*The views expressed in the article is that of the author/s and does not necessary reflect that of the University of Johannesburg

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