Why Ghana doesn't love Obama anymore
Obama told Ghanaians in 2009: “Africa’s future is up to Africans.” So why is the US bombing Libya, they rightly ask. No lasting peace will take root in Libya without strong African support. Ditto for America’s ongoing struggle against terrorists there.
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But he wasn’t Qaddafi. And the comparison is actually an insult to Nkrumah, who was a genuine revolutionary; Qaddafi is a murderer and – by most accounts – a nut job. Among other things, Qaddafi is responsible for the torture and death of thousands of his countrymen. That’s why the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for his arrest last week.Skip to next paragraph
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So when Ghanaians imagine Qaddafi as a successor to Nkrumah, they’re engaging in a flight of fancy. But the pan-African impulse still remains strong across the continent, where memories of colonialism are still fresh in millions of minds.
'Move outta Libya, Obama'
Meeting recently, the African Union condemned France for air-dropping weapons to the rebels fighting Qaddafi. It also criticized the ICC for the arrest warrant against him. Some African leaders have denounced Qaddafi, of course. But there is enough support for him – and enough backlash against the US – that Obama needs to listen.
He might hear echoes of his own 2009 speech to the Ghanaian national parliament, which sounded a strong note of continental self-determination. “Africa’s future is up to Africans,” Obama declared. So why are Western powers now attacking the continent, over the objections of most of its governments?
ANOTHER VIEW: NATO in Libya: Four reasons why this isn't a 'crusade'
I’m sure Obama has some good answers, starting with the fact that Qaddafi’s victims are Africans as well. So he should make his case directly to the African Union and to other local critics, who haven’t drawn a lot of White House attention thus far.
But they should. No lasting peace will take root in Libya without strong African support. Ditto for America’s ongoing struggle against terrorists like Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up an American plane on Christmas Day in 2009. Africa remains a fertile field for terrorism, and we need African cooperation in order to contain it.
We need to remember that the Libyan war is an African war, too. That’s the theme of a new hit by the Ghanaian reggae rapper Blakk Rasta, who struck gold three years ago – on the eve of President Obama’s election – with a catchy tune celebrating “brother Barack.”
But this year’s song takes a very different tack. “Move outta Libya, Obama,” Rasta urges. “Now is the time to put on your African thinking cap.” Let’s hope he does.
Jonathan Zimmerman is a professor of education and history at New York University. He is teaching in NYU’s study-abroad program in Ghana this summer.