All this celebratory talk of Obama and how great he will be for Africa; a tad early to celebrate. I hated Bush and am no Republican supporter and I am glad Obama won the election, but I can see no reason why we in Africa should think another Democrat would be great for Africa.
We should never forget that Rwanda’s genocide happened under Clinton’s watch where the USA refused to acknowledge the genocide and hampered peace-keeping through gross charges for armored troop transport. Even Clinton later admitted to mistakes and lamented doing nothing. The USA will do as it does for its benefit regardless of the race of its president. Obama’s “blackness” will not influence his policies towards Africa and to argue it will is a crude form of racialisation. Just because he is black does not mean he has a substantive connection to Africa or will do anything exceptional for the continent.
I can’t help but feel that everybody is so caught up in this historic moment (and it is) that they have gone a little over board. He is no Mandela as other blogs here have inferred or outright stated and will hardly impact on American foreign policy in meaningful ways. Israel will continue to dodge UN resolutions, Iraq will remain a mess, foreign aid to Africa will decrease in light of the global economic slowdown, and USA administration’s arrogance and assumptions of their own nation-state’s superiority will continue unabated into the future.
On a domestic front, Obama is no lefty (despite McCain’s campaign claims). His campaign may have garnered money from the “ordinary people” as stated, but he owes much more to corporate America than people acknowledge. And let’s be honest, despite his skin colour blacks in America will remain by and large marginalised, poorer than the average and their lot will hardly change. In fact his election may add fuel to the fire of those advocating for the end of affirmative action in the USA. The American healthcare system is and will remain expensive and out of reach for many as will decent free education.
I am certain that the USA is a better place with Obama at the helm. I am excited for the future of the USA, but I do couch it in cautionary tones. The American political system is one of the most difficult to institute new policy and for the president to make sweeping changes. Even as he promises change, he is mired in an inefficient political system with some very powerful lobby groups arrayed against changes he wishes to make.
Let’s watch what he does, hold him to his promises, but don’t hold our breath. And let’s hope he makes history for more reasons that just being black.