Tribute to outgoing American President Barack Obama

Makwaia Wa Kuhenga

TODAY, almost all eyes will be focused to Washington where a new President of the United States will be sworn-in, taking over from President Barack Hussein Obama whose term of office has come to an end.

For us in Africa, President Obama evokes special nostalgia, as he is the first African-American President to be elected president by American people eight years ago.

That he comes from a minority African- American segment of the population of the United States to become President is reflective of the qualitative evolution of American people towards a non-racial democratic society whose struggle, however, continues.

That the achievement of a non-racial American society is yet to be won is reflective on the fact that most often than not one follows incidents of inter-racial attacks and murders within the American society.

This is a separate point and deserves a special perspective.

But here, we are saying farewell and paying tribute to the first Afro-American President who was elected democratically in accordance with the American Constitution.

To become a leader of the United States, which is termed today as a unipolar power, evokes immense challenges.

A leader of this country, in a wider sense, assumes huge responsibilities because that leadership also entails global leadership.

Global peace and security and peaceful co-existence within the international community becomes part of the responsibilities and agenda of the President of the United States.

There could be no simpler words to underpin the power of the President of the United States than the remarks of the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere saying how much he wished the American vote was taken by the rest of the international community given the super power status of the United States of America.

On the global agenda before and after Barack Obama assumed power eight years ago was the crisis in the Middle East which area constitutes a people, although historically traced to belong to the area are today stateless and subjugated.

Other issues were the injustice subjected to a free country neighbouring the United States whose state was subjected to nonrecognition, isolation and economic blockade.

I will now move to mention what the Obama Administration did to some of these global problems such as the question of Palestine and Israel.

Following retiring President Obama’s move to try to resolve the question of Palestine, it is as if he had come across the moving words by Tanzanian founder President, Dr Julius Nyerere, who once spoke of Palestinians:

“Nobody today doubts the presence and security of the State of Israel.

If birds can go back to their nests, for how long will Palestinian people remain homeless?” Very recently, there was good news.

For those following global news on their TV sets, the big news that dominated the headlines was the adoption of the UN Security Council anti-Israeli Settlements Resolution.

The United States under the leadership of President Obama did not stand on the way of the resolution or block it. It chose to abstain instead, which was taken as good as no objection.

In the words of a prominent member of the American Jewish Congress:

“As a longtime friend of Israel, I approve of President Obama’s decision to allow the United Nations resolution condemning Israel settlements.

Someone needs to tell Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu not to put friends in the position of continually having to defend the indefensible or illegal and immoral activities.

” Referring to the fact that the United States abstained from the 14-0 vote, this member of the American Jewish Congress is quoted online as lauding President Obama for “offering something to the Palestinians” at the end of his term.

He added: “Israel used to say that Jerusalem is its united capital and that the 1967 borders are not the final borders, thereby claiming ownership of Palestinian territories.

But now the world has determined otherwise.

” The UN Security Council Vote against continued Israel’s land settlements, which is now in effect, was the brainchild of President Obama, who is retiring today at the end of his term of office.

The move by the Obama Administration not to veto the vote is regarded by most people in the international community as a gesture of dignified stance by President Obama’s earlier initiative for a two-state solution – that of Palestine and Israel.

Actually, the very early initiative by President Obama was for a two-state solution - a state for Israel and another for Palestinian people. What comes immediately to memory was President Obama’s first state visit to Egypt on his first term of office.

He eloquently argued for a two-state solution in the course of his speech at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University. His move not to veto the UN resolution against continued Israel settlements serves to underpin the continuation of his earliest stance to resolve the question of Palestine and Israel.

There is yet another bold decision by President Obama during his presidency.

That was his move to recognise Cuba, whose new state led by Fidel Castro in 1959 overthrew an American backed military junta.

Cuba, only 90 miles off the shores of the United States had hitherto suffered all-round isolation and economic blockade. Now Washington has an embassy in Havana as much as Havana has one in Washington.

Coupled with this, Obama made a state visit to Cuba, the first by an American President after the Cuban Revolution of 1959.

This is the man we are seeing handing over power today to a new president. Now, what is the road ahead now that Obama is no longer at the oval office? Those who have followed the successor to Mr Obama must be chuckling and giggling at this question or shuddering at the mere mention of the new American president! But it is not an amused chuckle at all.

It is a chuckle that hides the apprehension to most of us – what will be the fate of Palestinians and others given the oftenquoted remarks by the new American president.

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