The most poignant suggestion by President Obama to changing Africa’s fortune in his speech in Accra, Ghana was his call to the youths of the continent to hold their leaders to account.
In a continent where age and patronage is the norm, a call for young people to use their numerical strength and youth to change the destinies of their nations is all but a call to revolution. And, about time progressive voices in and outside the continent would argue.
Obama directly challenged the youths in his dream for a new Africa. He strategically targeted the youths who formed over half the population in the continent with the refrain of ‘yes you can’. This leitmotif for change is a determined and well thought-out move by the US president to instil confidence into the youths of Africa. It should serve to inspire them to wrest control of the continent from played-out and corrupt leaders who have neither the skills nor the moral authority to bring about change in their respective countries.
It is a leitmotif that seeks to transform the youth in Africa from a predilection for drugs and violence, to a potent political force for progress and development.
The youths of Africa now have an opportunity to blaze the trail of a man who per force is the leader of the world, and who is also of African ancestry.
It was a call for them to release themselves from the tradition and custom of blind reverence to leaders and elders. What President Obama was saying in Accra was that African youths need to be pro-active politically questioning and challenging the problem of bad governance and corruption in their societies. They need to buck the trend and save the continent from further slide into the mire of decadence and irretrievable disaster.
They should transform themselves from the image of toadying to the demands of politicians into real contenders for political power. Obama in his speech was attempting to inject renewed energy and fire into these mostly hapless youths so that they could change the trajectory of their continent for good.
It is also a call to the educated youths who have experienced a negative transformation from progressive student leaders to corrupt political mandarins bent on maintaining the status quo instead of contributing meaningfully to development of their communities. With this speech Obama is hoping for the birth of a new African youth.
The speech delivered to a black African audience has cemented Obama’s place among a select few in the realm of great black leaders in history. The Obama revolution has arrived where it is most needed – Sub-Saharan Africa. The president was at his most urbane. His mojo was in full display in the Ghanaian parliament. The speech was delivered in his usual professional sang-froid.
It was a classical tour-de-force which carefully cherry-picked the ills and problems which has morphed Sub-Saharan Africa into a carbuncle that the world would rather forget. He cited Somalia and Sudan as examples of this rather sad and rotten state of affairs in the continent. The president did not dissemble. He went straight for his targets the corrupt potentates and the youths.
The speech was a shot across the bow of African potentates that it would not be business as usual i.e. aid and more aid no accountability. With his trade mark conflating of style and substance in his delivery, Obama catalogued a sickening array of failings that is at the core of the African problem i.e. corruption, bad governance, dictatorships – both ‘democratic’ and military – and the distasteful phenomenon of big man politics.
The president struck at the heart of some of the ‘pretend democracy’ which we are now witnessing across sub-Saharan Africa. The new strategy for these corrupt leaders is to use democracy to legitimise their client states while all the assorted ingredients of a democracy like accountability, good governance, the rule of law and a free press is lacking. These obdurate potentates have presided over a state of affairs that is obscurantist at best and at worse failing and collapsing.
The President targeted this destructive and criminal cartel that has converted this beautiful and potentially powerful continent into little fiefdoms with no accountability to the people.
They have deliberately allowed their countries to atrophy while a cynical world has continued to pour in aid and more aid ad-nauseam, only to be embezzled by these leaders for the benefit of their exclusive line of flunkies, courtiers and families in foreign banks.
It is high time that these putrid administrations are held responsible by the international community led by the United States of America. Such African leaders must heed Browning’s comment on Wardsworth: ‘never glad confident morning again’. Democracy, they must be warned, is not an ala carte menu for them to pick and choose what suits their undemocratic agenda.