Posted by: Karina of the Fallen Stars | July 11, 2009

Obama Goes to Ghana, the Rest of Africa Cries “You didn’t pick me!”

When the latest MJ reports are not making headlines every split second, the attention turns back to President Barrack Obama. Today he visits the Sub-African country of Ghana, making him the third U.S. president to do so. This has created quite a storm across the nation as many Ghanaians rejoice, sing, and dance in the streets. Vendors sell Obama merchandise and memorabilia, ranging from clothing to key chains to portraits. Miniature American flags are also being sold by the dozens. One city, Cape Coast with a population of 150,000, has even suspended funeral services in honor of the president’s visit.

What does this mean for Ghana? For one thing, hopefully economic advice. The leaders of the G8 Summit pledged to support agriculture, Ghana’s chief source of income. Secondly, the fact that the first African-American president is visiting an African country sends a surge of pride for many Ghanaians. In addition, many foreigners favor Obama’s progressive policies and tactics, summed up with the campaign slogan “Yes We Can!” which may apply to countries other than the U.S.

Obama stated that he chose Ghana specifically because of its “commitment to democracy“.  Since 1992, Ghana has considered itself a democratic country, a fact highlighted by Bill Clinton’s historic visit in 1994. However, several neighboring African countries have mixed reactions to Obama’s choice of visiting Ghana. Some are understanding of the reason behind his decision, other nations (particularly Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father) feel they have been slighted. One Kenyan civilian comments, “I don’t like the fact that he is looking at everything from a political standpoint. No government is perfect, and he should not punish politicians at the expense of the little people.”

Being selective of visiting certain countries for political and ideological reasons is not an uncommon tactic for U.S. presidents, as was the case in the Cold War years and human rights issues surrounding Clinton’s visit to China in the 90’s. Nonetheless, U.S. leaders once also negotiated with dictators and fascists in an effort to “contain” Communism. This shows that democracy was not always an ultimatum. Such is also the case where economics are an issue (i.e. OPEC nations). As a continent, the politics of Africa are far from being classified as stable. This political unrest often leads to violence, as seen in the aftermath of the Kenyan and South African elections this past year. By choosing Ghana, Obama is sending a clear-cut message that the U.S. gives preference to democratic republics, that democracy is something every nation should strive to embody and never deny to its citizens. I believe that expressing such an ideal was the right choice. But that ideal should not be followed half-heartedly. If democracy is the preference, no dictatorships should be given special privilege for the sole reason of economic gain. Doing so would by hypocritical, and hypocrisy should never be equated with democracy


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