American Democracy and African Liberation
The ideals of American democracy, and the spirit of African liberation, have been intimately linked for more than half a century. At pivotal historic moments the two have intersected. One such moment is now. The election of President-elect Barack Obama is a vindication of American democracy and a challenge to Africa.
In the 1950s, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, Kwame Nkrumah was a proponent of non-violent “positive action” and he and his fellow African nationalists saw their cause as inextricably linked to the efforts for emancipation in the U.S. The veteran American civil rights activist Bill Sutherland has described how Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta “were visibly impressed when, on that fateful night in 1957, the British flag was lowered, and the flag of Ghana was raised. Nkrumah, dressed in traditional kente cloth, his fists waving in the air, tears streaming down his face, shouted over and over again, “˜Free at last! Free at last!'” King used those same words himself at his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial, attributing them to a Negro spiritual. Sutherland wonders whether, perhaps, “those thunderous words in Washington DC had not come from King’s memory of that historic evening in Ghana.”
Tragically, by the time of King’s triumph, Nkrumah had been deposed and humiliated. The mountain he had set himself to climb was too steep, and his enemies were too many. Perhaps most fatefully, Nkrumah’s embrace of violence as the means of liberation””albeit under extreme duress””scarred the previously civic and peaceable tradition of Africa’s emancipation. The addiction to armed struggle and the coup d’état disfigured the African left for a long generation and also estranged African liberation from its erstwhile broad base of sympathy in America.
Nelson Mandela was the inspiring exception, for both Africans and Americans. In May 1994, President-elect Mandela spoke at the African National Congress’s victory celebration. He wrote later, “Mrs Coretta Scott-King … was on the podium that night, and I looked over to her as I made reference to her husband’s immortal words. “˜This is one of the most important moments in the life of our country. I stand before you filled with deep pride and joy – pride in the ordinary, humble people of this country. You have shown such a calm, patient determination to reclaim this country as your own, and now the joy that we can loudly proclaim from the rooftops – Free at last! Free at last!'”
Mandela’s triumph was the last echo of the civic tradition of African independence struggle, achieved””against the odds””peaceably in the continent’s most fractured country. During those long years in which African liberation had lost its way, swamped in repeated disappointment, Mandela was an icon of principled resistance and hope””not just to South Africans, but to Africans and Americans too. It says much that Mandela attributed his cry of freedom to the American activist, not the African independence leader.
Last night in Chicago, Senator Barack Obama made only passing reference to the civil rights struggle and never mentioned his own identity save as an American. He did not need to. The picture of an African American family on the podium, about to enter the White House, said it all. Across America, last night was a liberation day, celebrated with astonishing euphoria. A peaceful revolution. African Americans walked inches taller. In Harvard Square””not, admittedly, characteristic of the U.S.””where I joined the revelry with my wife and small son, there was total jubilation. Among the Obama stickers was a Kenyan flag.
There’s no doubt that Obama’s victory restores the world’s faith in American democracy and the American promise of equality and boundless possibility. There’s no question that this resonates particularly deeply in Africa, where young people cannot fail to draw the contrast between what has just happened in America, and their own leaders who possess a less-than-total commitment to democracy and human rights. Young Africans especially long for the change that Obama’s campaign has exemplified. Whatever policies the Obama Administration pursues towards Africa, the simple fact that he has been elected transforms America’s standing. The gracious concession speech by John McCain should also be studied by African leaders. America’s political system has shown itself more principled and robust than many could have imagined. It challenges Africa’s leaders to take democracy and human rights with the same seriousness.
I dont think climate change is the sole cause of the conflict in Darfur. THe conflict in Darfur is the product of many different causes. Causes such as, population growth, access to resources, depleted resources, environmental degredation, resource competition, changing weather patterns, less rain, too much rain, poor living conditions, displacement, poor land held by rural and poor people, the best land given to the wealthy, broken promises by the government, no government aid and a host of other reasons. All of these reasons lead to conflict. All of these make people unhappy. When people are unhappy, they rebel. Rebellion leads to violence, violence leads to more rebellion, which leads to retaliation, and so we have an ongoing conflict. Overtime the reasons get pushed to the back and all anyone knows anymore is that there is fighting.
Everyone knows that the united states is the leader in Co2 emmisions. So, I would say our role in climate change and Global warming is a huge one. To link us directly to the conflict in Darfur in that way is a stretch, since climate change is not the sole cause of the conflict there. As for the role of the state, I definitely think that they could be doing a lot more to solve the crisis there, since they are linked to the reasons behind the problems. It is the same for the United States and the rest of the world. They all are linked to what is going on in Darfur whether it be directly or indirectly.
Recently the US witnessed a decline in its popularity especially in the Muslim world. Obama’s victory will lead to a positive change in the image of US worldwide. There is jubilation around the globe. Minorities around the world think that the victory is theirs. For instance, the new Government of South Sudan announced a vocation to celebrate the event last Thursday. It is a high time for Obama to succeed where his predecessors failed .
The Bush regime was so bad, arrogant. corrupt and inept that it would be hard to imagine worse. Obama’s eloquence, inteligence and grass roots support are wonderful and give hope.
HOWEVER if anything this election has demonstrated not democracy but that money rules the US election process. While 25% of Obama’s donations were small individual contributions, the big majority were from corporations and Wall Street associated groups and individuals. $250 million!
Mike Gravel, Ron Paul and above all Dennis Kucinich were minimized or prevented from participating in critical TV debates. Is it coincidence that all of these individuals had much more profound anti-war messages than Barack? I don’t think so.
We all hope for the best. We hope that Barack might be a latter day FDR. Or a 21st Century Frederick Douglas. Or ….. sorry but I think it is a possibility ….. will he just be another smooth salesman for the system like Colin Powll and Condi Rice?
Has racism really been overcome? Or was the election simply evidence that the system cares less about skin color than policy. After GWB the system really needs a face-lift. After all, major sections of the US political and economic elite are for Barack.
Am I wrong? Are the millions who are celebrating Barack, hope and change totally justified? Are we on the cusp of real change?
We will see.
We all hope that Obama will make some changes for us africans, but the question is when will it come, and for how long will africans support him when they don’t see any changes. I only hope people gives him time. Bush messed things up very bad.
One of the worrying factors is the presence among Obama’s influencial supporters of activists who are not interested in peace or stability in Sudan.
The most prominent is Mr John Prendergast who opposed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement when it was signed in 2005. Likewise he opposed the Abuja Darfur Peace Agreement in 2006.
Now he and the organisations which he represents send written messages urging the new administration to behave more aggressively towards Sudan.
We hope that the Obama administration will try to deliver the promised change.We do not want Obama to be George W.Obama .