The US leader might have roots in the continent but he has been more style than substanceby Ismail Einashe / July 31, 2015 / Leave a comment
Last Friday, the first Kenyan-American President of the United States returned to the country of his father’s birth. He arrived in Nairobi amid tight security (Kenya’s airspace was shut down). He was greeted by his half-sister Auma Obama as well as President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta had been facing charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for allegedly stoking ethnic violence after Kenya’s 2007 presidential elections. The violence cost the lives of 1,200 people and displaced 600,000. But, the case against Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s founding father, was dropped in 2014, because the ICC could not bring a case against him—they accused his government of obstructing their investigation. This thorny issue had delayed Obama’s visit.
During a speech in Nairobi, Obama recalled his last visit to Kenya in 2006, when the Democratic senator from Illinois was greeted like a rock star. Back then, Obama was able to visit the village of his father—an economist who died in a car crash in 1982 and whom Obama barely knew. On this visit, though, he complained about being holed up in swanky hotels and conferences rooms of Nairobi.
But although Obama may have visited Africa more than any other US president, he has been a largely disappointing one for Africa. Hopes were raised when he became president in 2008, partly because he was seen as a son of Africa. Yet during his seven years in power, he’s lacked a clear vision and a strategy. Obama’s focus has been on Asia. In contrast, his predecessor George W Bush made Africa a key foreign policy priority for his administration and through his efforts to combat HIV/Aids helped to save millions of lives.