There was much excitement in Africa when Barack Obama was elected US president in 2008. But he didn't live up to many expectations. Daniel Pelz recounts the legacy of the first US president with African roots.

Jubilant crowds flooded the streets of Ghana's capital Accra during Obama's first visit to Africa as US president. Even members of Ghana's parliament rose to chants of "Yes we can" when he addressed them.

"I have the blood of Africa within me. My family's story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story," Obama said, referring to his heritage as the son of a Kenyan father.

In his speech, he called on Africans to take their fate into their own hands, shun corruption and demand accountability from their leaders.

"Make no mistake, history is on the side of these brave Africans and not with those who use coups or change constitutions to stay in power," he said.

More words less action

"It was very influencial as a speech at that moment," Alex Vines, head of the Africa program at British thinktank Chatham House told DW. "Some of the thoughts and prescriptions in there will last."

But the excitement did not stop. Obama still drew large crowds on subsequent visits, but many Africans are disappointed about his performance. Many feel that he failed to live up to the lofty promises he made in his speeches. Analysts take a more differentiated look at his performance.

"I give him six points out of ten for his involvement with Africa," Kenyan political analyst Martin Oloo told DW. Obama understood Africa's problems and challenges well, Oloo said. "He would have done more if there would have been a more enabling environment for him."

But faced with a growing economic crisis at home, rising unemployment and foreign policy hotspots such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Obama struggled to find time for Africa in the first years of his presidency. Ghana was the only African country he visited during his first term.

He did try to make up for it in the later years of his presidency. In early 2012, he released a new Africa strategy that declared the continent a potential economic success story. He travelled to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania a year later. In 2015, he paid a much-awaited visit to Kenya, his father's homeland. He also became the first sitting US president to address the the African Union.

Criticism from human rights groups

The US government also sent special forces to Central Africa to hunt down Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Obama also intervened repeatedly in the Sudan crisis, especially to salvage the referendum on South Sudan's independence in 2011.

Obama continued to emphasize his key themes of democracy, human rights and the rule of law on all his trips to Africa. But critics note that actions often did not follow words.

"Overall the Obama administration provided strong support for civil society, media freedom and LGBT rights in Africa," wrote Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in a recent commentary.

"However, as authoritarian rulers gained a greater foothold on the continent, Washington was inconsistent in matching Obama's early and apt observation that Africa needs 'strong institutions, not strongmen' with concrete actions."

Successfull US Africa summit

But Kenya's Martin Oloo thinks there was little Obama could have done. 

"He was also constrained by Africa's other problems: poor accountability, poor governance and leadership challenges. You have a leadership that is not responsive," he said.

Obama also drew criticism from human rights organizations for US intelligence cooperation with countries such as Sudan and Ethiopia. He also continued US drone strikes against alledged Islamic militants in Somalia, begun by his predecessor George W Bush.

He was also the host of the first US-Africa summit in August 2014 that brought some 50 African leaders to Washington. At the summit, Obama lauded Africa as a continent of opportunities and announced a $33 billion (31 billion euros) investment package for Africa.

"Underpinning it was a shift of US policy moving away from being particularly focused on humanitarianism and counterterrorism to emphasizing that Africa was a continent of the future and it was also about trade and growth," said Alex Vines of Chatham House.

For Vines, its clear what parts of President Obama's Africa policy will be remembered. "It will be trade rather than aid or security. That is President Obama's key Africa legacy in my opinion, " he said.

Source: DW

17th Jan,2017


9. Jan, 2017

African leaders to visit Banjul to push Jammeh to go

West African leaders are to head to Gambia to persuade President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power after his election defeat last month, according to Nigeria's foreign minister.

Geoffrey Onyeama said on Monday Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari will visit Banjul, capital of Gambia, on Wednesday along with his Liberian counterpart Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Ghana's former president John Dramani Mahama.
The decision came as West African leaders met in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, to decide on next steps in their mediation of the Gambia's political crisis.

Wednesday's meeting would "discuss with President Jammeh the imperative to respect the constitution", Onyeama said in a statement.

He said the talks "agreed on the determination to resolve the Gambian political crisis in a manner that at every step of the way conforms with the constitution ... and respects the will of the people of The Gambia".

Those involved in the crisis talks were concerned over worsening security, including a crackdown on the news media, which has seen a number of radio stations taken off air.
Last month, high-level regional talks in Banjul ended without resolution.
Jammeh, a former coup leader who has ruled the country for 22 years, initially accepted his defeat by opposition figure Adama Barrow in the December 1 election.

But a week later, he reversed his position, threatening to hang onto power despite a wave of regional and international condemnation.

Diplomats are concerned the impasse over the poll could escalate quickly into violence.

Separately, Jammeh fired 12 ambassadors after they called for him to step aside and allow Barrow to take power, a foreign ministry source told AFP news agency on Monday.
Gambia's ambassadors to China, Britain, Turkey, Senegal, and the US, as well as the country's permanent representative to the UN, were among those sacked after sending a letter asking Jammeh to leave in late December.

"The Gambia government has recalled 12 ambassadors after terminating their services," the source said on condition of anonymity.

"I do not know why President Yahya Jammeh terminated their services, but I can tell you that these are the ambassadors that congratulated and endorsed President-elect Adama Barrow for his election victory."
Source: Aljazeera
9th Jan, 2017

Gabon election: Justice minister quits over disputed result


Gabonese Justice Minister Seraphim Moundounga has resigned in protest over the disputed presidential election.

He is reported to have warned the incumbent, Ali Bongo, that he could cancel the results of the election if they did not "tally with reality".

Mr Bongo was declared the winner by a narrow margin last Wednesday, but the opposition say the poll was fraudulent.

His rival Jean Ping has called for a general strike and says dozens of his supporters have been killed.

Mr Moundounga is the first senior government minister to resign over the election result.

The Gabonese authorities say three people have died and 105 have been injured following violent clashes and mass arrests that have taken place since the election result was announced.

Other reports put the death toll at at least six.

There have been more than 800 arrests and France says several people with dual French-Gabonese citizenship remain unaccounted for.

The official election result gave Mr Bongo a second seven-year term with 49.8% of the vote to Mr Ping's 48.2% - a margin of 5,594 votes.

Mr Ping won in six out of nine provinces but disputes the result in Mr Bongo's home province of Haut-Ogooue, where turnout was 99.93% and 95% of votes were for the president.

Turnout in the other provinces was between 45% and 71%, according to Gabon's interior ministry.

The former African Union diplomat has called for a recount, which has so far been resisted by the government.

Oil-rich Gabon has one of the highest per-capita incomes in Africa, but few of its 1.6 million people feel the benefit.