Obama and Africa

US president Obama paid his first visit to Africa by visiting Ghana. This visit came after nearly six months in Office. There was widespread expectations in Africa when Obama was elected as the first Black American President. Expectations were based on the fact that Obama's father is from Kenya and due to his African roots, Obama will pay more attention to African issues specifically poverty , debt and  unemployment. Instead Obama on his much publicised speech in Ghana spoke about Governance and the need for good governance in Africa. In this article we will be looking at U.S and other western countries role in good governance in Africa.

While Obama was delivering his lecture in Ghana,  court in Switzerland delivered an interesting verdict. This court awarded six billion dollars held in European banks by the former Congolese dictator Late Mobutu Seko Seku to Mobutu's family. This money was stolen by Mobutu during his reign as Congolese dictator. This amount is nearly half of the money lent by IMF to Congo during Mobutu's rule. Present Congolese government did not oppose the court's verdict as Mobutu's son is a member of the present government. Congo is in perpetual civil war and poverty . If this money was returned to Congo, it would have helped the country to rebuild it's infrastructure.

Mobutu cam to power in a US CIA organised military coup in 60s. Congolese president and the independence leader Patrice Lumumba was assasinated in the coup. Only mistake Lumumba made in the eyes of US and colonial powers was that he wanted Congolese people take charge of Congo's natural resources and establish good governance. For this effort he was assassinated and Mobutu was brought to power. Mobutu looted the country for nearly thirty years,and had the worst governance in Africa. He was fully supported by US and west whose multinationals took part in looting.

Another example of U.S and western efforts hypocrisy is Guinea. Lamzana Conte came to power in a western backed coup in 70s and looted the country's resources. Gabon's former president Omar bongo is another example. Now his son is contesting to become President.

U.S and western countries actually removed any government in Africa which tried to establish good governance in their country. Assassinations and coups were the hall mark. Burkino Faso's  leader Capt Thomas Sankara who tried to root out corruption and mismanagement was assassinated. Ghana's independence leader Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown in military coup. Nigeria's leader Murtela Mohammed who tried to weed out corruption was assassinated. The list goes on.

When U.S talks about good governance they talk about Mugabe and Charles Taylor. Mugabe has not stolen from state coffers. If he has stolen from the state coffers , by now U.S and west would have tracked the money down in the banks anywhere the world. Same applies to Charles Taylor . If he has stolen the diamonds in Sierre Leone where is that money?. Surely this money would have been presented in his trial in Hague as an evidence of his atrocities. Charles Taylor was removed from power in Liberia with the full involvement of Lamizana Conte's Guinea so that multinationals can exploit Sierra Leone's mineral resources.

In a nutshell U.S and western governments were never promoting good governance in Africa. Instead actually they were removing governments which wanted to have  good governance in their countries. They only wanted their multinationals to exploit the resources of Africa and for that purpose only allowed and sustained corrupt governments. These governments squandered and stole  IMF loans and perpetually indebted Africa.

Franz Fanon great black revolutionary to come from Americas to fight for liberation in Africa wrote in Wretched of the Earth four decades ago about the effect of colonialism and neo colonialism in Africa. Franz Fanon really cared about Africa and fought in the Algerian independence struggle and literally sacrificed his life. He was a true revolutionary unlike Oprah Winfreys and Michael Jacksons who in practice did nothing to help Africa.

Obama is the latest of US presidents to lecture Africa on good governance. But ordinary people in Africa who have seen this before and for them it is an old wine in new bottle.

15th of July 2009