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Obama In Africa: 12 Things We Learned From His Historic Trip

Obama In Africa: 12 Things We Learned From His Historic Trip

Obama greets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty

Obama greets Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa. Photo: Saul Loeb/Getty

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From The Guardian

Obama is on a roll. He arrived in east Africa on the back of a ruling upholding his healthcare plan, endorsement of his Pacific trade agreement, a nuclear deal with Iran, the reopening of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and stirring eulogy in Charleston. He disembarked Air Force One in Nairobi with a spring in his step and proceeded to confidently skewer homophobia, misogyny, corruption and dictatorship.

Obama’s message of hope rings true in call for Africa to flourish

Yet few of the usual reactionary voices were raised to accuse him of being a “western neocolonial” meddling in traditions and cultures he didn’t understand. Presumably his African heritage was an important deflector shield. But it’s all downhill from here: the continent can be forgiven for mustering less enthusiasm for president Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush or… Donald Trump.

An open-top bus tour was never going to happen

Major roads in Nairobi were closed and deserted, which spoiled the atmosphere a bit, while there was even less interaction with the public in Ethiopia. The Washington Post reported: “The spectre of terrorism had made preparing for this trip particularly complicated for the White House. A law enforcement official familiar with Secret Service security and logistics planning said the visit had been the most challenging since George W Bush went to Islamabad in 2006, based on the level of terrorist activity and lack of infrastructure in the region.”

‘Africa rising’ is now conventional wisdom

Obama noted that “Africa is on the move” more than once. Politicians and entrepreneurs love to point out that the old stereotypes of war, famine and hopelessness have been replaced by some of the fastest growing economies in the world, as if they are the first to discover it. In fact so many people have said this so often, is there anyone left who still doubts it?

Obama is a master of analogy

The president compared homophobia in Africa with racism in America, and his own respect for presidential term limits with African leaders who won’t let go(the football fans’ chant would be “Are you watching, Paul Kagame?”).

A less successful use of this rhetorical device was his drawing of a parallel between corruption in Kenya and corruption in the Chicago of Al Capone, since it implied that countries move in a linear progression and Kenya trails America by nearly a century.

‘Don’t mention the gays’ is a bad tactic

Before Obama’s visit, a leading activist said he hoped there would be no mention of homophobia, since it would cause a firestorm engulfing all other subjects. But when a journalist raised the issue at a press conference, Obama gave an “unequivocal” answer as Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, no fan of gay rights, was forced to take the medicine – a fine piece of political theatre. Such is Obama’s popularity in Kenya that there was relatively little media backlash against him, suggesting that by making gay rights a talking point, and perhaps changing a few minds, his directness did more good than harm.

Read more at The Guardian