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Obama is no saviour of Africa

By Kgothatso Shai | Jul 17, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

There has been widespread speculation around the world that US President Barack Obama stands for pro-Africa US foreign policy.

There has been widespread speculation around the world that US President Barack Obama stands for pro-Africa US foreign policy.

This was based on a symbol analysis that Africa possesses personal and political significance to him.

But Obama's labelling of the Darfur crisis as "genocide" is symbolic of continuity in foreign policy from the previous US administrations.

It is true that there is gross human rights violation in Darfur and the killing of civilians are enormous. Though the crisis is characterised by some of the remnants of genocide, the situation on the ground shows that the atrocities cut across national, ethnic, racial or religious creed.

For instance, the Janjaweed (alleged perpetrators of the violence) is predominantly Arab, but it is also manned by some Africans. Besides, centuries of ethnic intermarriages make it difficult to distinguish Arabs and Africans and most Darfurians are Muslims.

So Arabs and Africans are victims. The conflict cannot be reduced to simple historic tribal tensions between African agriculturalists and Arab nomads.

The starting point should be to acknowledge the complexities and dynamics of the conflict itself.

An obvious genocide took place in Rwanda in 1994, but it took many months for the US and its brainchild, the UN, to concede that it was real.

So why is the US obsessed with criminalis i ng Sudan on a charge of genocide? Is it because of the high death toll, based on what? Statistics from NGOs and intergovernmental agencies vary . The fact that the Bush government twisted an intelligence report to enable it to declare war against Iraq tells me that the Obama administration might be on a finishing line for Bush's foreign policy.

Notwithstanding the fact that Obama opposed war on Iraq, his characterisation of Darfur's conflict in his speech in Ghana signifies the continued marginalisation and vilification of African states by various US presidents, irrespective of political affiliation.

In the final analysis, for so many decades up to date, "neglect" would remain the centrepiece of US foreign policy as long as presidents-elect agree to be dictated to by their sponsors.

They want to discredit and put down the Sudanese government and install a pro-US regime that would allow American oil companies to explore energy resources , especially in the south.

The perpetuation of the usage of genocide to label the Darfur conflict undermines the AU-UN efforts to bring an amicable solution to the conflict.

lThe writer teaches international relations at the University of Venda and is author of Rethinking United States-South Africa Relations.


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