Tags: Obama | Africa | Ghana

Obama Must Decry African Genocide

Wednesday, 15 Jul 2009 06:45 PM

By Walid Phares

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If we accept the principle that a half truth is not the truth, we then need to consider that the Africa policy of the U.S. administration is dramatically incomplete in its essence.

This is the first lesson we would draw from President Barack Obama's speech delivered in front of the Ghana parliament on July 11. Hence it is necessary to dissect its policy components making the needed distinctions between abstract principles, applicable anywhere on the planet, and a host of dramatic African realities, so far ignored by Washington's "new direction."

There is no doubt that American ideals continue to inspire people around the world and in Africa in particular. Simply because these values, as Obama has reconfirmed after Presidents Clinton and Bush had before him, are part of the international body of democratic ideals. There are no reasons to be shy about principles declared by an American revolution that has inspired sister uprisings in Europe and around the world, centuries before the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Hence, when American presidents visit Africa, they should be comfortable in calling for more freedoms and liberties. Obama's additional contribution to symbolism towards Africa is naturally his ancestral link to the continent. Even though he doesn't descend directly from African-Americans who actually were enslaved, and that he is only part African and half European, the story of his father, a goat herder turned student who sought education in America, is very compelling. Along with his beautiful first family he can surely personalize the story of an American’s support for the liberation of Africa.

That is if the president exposes all real menaces confronting the continent and shatters the taboos.

Obama's fundamental philosophy is that the main threat to Africa is underdevelopment, and that priority should be to develop its economies and civil societies. He argues forcefully that "Development depends on good governance," and thus all it would take is for "judges, politicians, and decision-makers" to come to realize that it would be in the interest of their countries to act better and in a transparent way. The social science doctrine behind Obama's reasoning posits that an intellectual epiphany would lead to good citizenship and the latter would lead to jobs, equal opportunity, and all that moves societies to real democracy, and ruling by consent.

In abstract, and outside historical context, the logic of social evolution adds up. But as Obama's intellectuals and historians should know, human history is not happening outside specific realities, sui generic to the identity formation of each nation and region of the world. America had to resolve its painful and cataclysmic past before its 20th-century society completes the last steps of social justice.

From European settlements, to independence war, to wars with native Indians, border wars, slavery, civil war, and to more land acquisition before its democracy was able to mutate itself into its present stage. Africa isn't as lucky. Its native population is still pushed back in several areas of the continent, slavery is still plaguing millions, its borders aren't solid, and terrorism is abundant. In short, while living well is and should be the ultimate goal of all societies, living free is the only guarantee for that wellness.

And freedom for Africans is what the U.S. administration should focus on, while in fact, its presidential narrative has dodged this in the Accra speech.

During his highly symbolic visit to Cape Coast in Ghana, Obama visited a seaside fortress that the British used as a slave dungeon during the 17th century. He said it reminded him "of world evil." I am glad he used these terms, despite the fact that the dominant intelligentsia in America rejects the utilization of the word "evil" in political science, let alone in international politics.

Bush's "axis of evil" has been railed on campuses and in editorials for seven years but his successor's choice of the same word in indicting slavery ironically did not, and should not. So "evil" is a notion that we can use in a social science but the question is how. Obama said "the site reminded him of a recent trip to a Nazi concentration camp in Germany."

Hence the enslavement or the collective elimination of humans can be described as "evil" under the “new direction,” in a post-Bush era. The president should then visit the other coast of Africa, including his father's homeland Kenya, and cross the great Sahara to condemn that other “evil” that shipped millions of black slaves eastbound under the swords of the caliphates.

Western enslavement of Africans is only one face of the coin but Arab and Ottoman enslavement of Africans is still dodging historical justice. The eastern dungeons of slavery were much older and never exposed by humanity.

Even in contemporary times, slaves have been taken from southern Sudan by the northern jihadists; slaves are in existence in Mauritania. Both governments are members of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. As the president was visiting a remnant of a past evil, African blacks are serving "masters" in Khartoum and Nouakshot.

"Evil" is not dead in Africa, it is torturing the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. America must have the courage to be fair to history, condemn present injustice, and declare that slavery today will be met with direct international resolve and the regimes involved in it or protecting it will be tried in an international court of law.

Mentioning the highest human tragedy on the continent, the president said: "We must bear witness to the value of every child in Darfur . . . all of us must strive for the peace and security necessary for progress." As he did in his Cairo speech, Obama mentioned Darfur, and in Accra he called it at last "genocide." But five years after U.S. policy had already coined it as such the first African-American president should go much further than "bearing witness" to Darfur's children massacred by the jihadi Janjaweed militias.

Obama must speak with thunder and lay out a plan to end the genocide of blacks in Sudan, with a clear strategy to put the province under military protection by the United Nations or an international coalition. Unlike toward Iran's revolt, where he suggested watching the "crisis play itself out," for Darfur, there is no choice except moving in and saving an African people from extermination with the same resolve the Clinton administration rushed to protect the "white" Bosnians and Kosovars in the 1990s.

Confronting the jihadi terrorist regime of Bashir, already indicted by the International Criminal Court, is a matter of moral and legal duty under international law, unless the latter won't be applied against “any” member of the OIC.

The United States cannot ignore genocide in Africa as it did in southern Sudan where one million lives have been exterminated and for Biafra where another million were slaughtered. In his speech in Accra, the president skipped the genocide of southern Sudan all together and instead of reminding us of the horrors of the Biafran Holocaust, stated that "across Africa, we see examples of people tackling these problems. In Nigeria, an interfaith effort of Christians and Muslims has set an example of cooperation to confront malaria."

But what killed millions in southeast Nigeria and in southern Sudan wasn't malaria; it was ethnic cleansing organized under various forms of jihadism.

Dr. Walid Phares is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of “The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.” For more analysis and interviews, visit www.walidphares.com.

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