What Obama Should do for Africa

I have been floundering attempting to understand and articulate the Obama doctrine on Africa post-Obama-euphoria. It’s a bit premature for Obama to have the policy drafted and published,…but somehow, I’ve stumbled upon a fantastic article which articulates exactly what I believe Obama’s approach should be toward Africa. Read below an excerpt.

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Military or humanitarian concerns alone will serve neither the US’s, nor Africa’s long-term interests.

A deeper understanding of US interests in Africa would require supporting Africa’s overall desire to lead herself and enhancing African institutions that promote democracy, accountability and human rights. A new US Africa policy should aim to trigger fundamental internal changes in the modes of rule in the continent.…

Africa would benefit from an Obama presidency if more resources were invested in long-term projects in rural and inland infrastructure, agriculture and health, basic and higher education, trade facilitation and enhancement, the elimination of obstacles to private investment, the development of credit facilities, support to African civil society organizations, leadership, institutions and expertise and the sound management of Africa’s natural resources and open its markets to Africa’s exports.

The US will not alone provide the full array of investments that are needed to overcome the continent’s economic problems. But Obama could significantly strengthen and revitalise important public constituencies for Africa in the US and broaden the basis for US engagement in the continent. Read more.

I think it’s so important to lock focus on building self-sufficiency rather than building dependency on aid. Ideology-based diplomacy which beams on African issues through the tinted prisms of ‘war on terror security issues’ ‘anti-abortion/abstinence’ and in the past ‘anti-communism’ is also not a good idea.

An exciting emerging phenomenon is mentioned in passing in the article as a “revitalization of important public constituencies for Africa in the US”; I’ve alluded to it in previous posts. This phenomenon is the increasing number of young educated African Immigrants in the US and their engagement in US politics. 1st-3rd+ generation African Immigrants working within capitol hill…getting involved in campaign organizations like Africans/Ethiopians/Somalis etc.. for Obama. There is a chance these organizations will be a trigger for the involvement of the African diaspora within U.S. politics. As stakeholders who fulfill their obligations, these Americans can harness their rights to make demands. The development of these Africa-affiliated public constituencies (i.e. political/community African Immigrant Organizations) could mean they can push the African agenda…at a time when the U.S.  will continue to have an expanding basis for engagement with the continent. Jewish communities are well known in their ability to unite for their common causes.

There are reasons to believe these organizations played key roles in some of the successes of the Obama victory last week. Concrete data is pending; however, allow me to indulge in some extrapolations:

  • CNN called VA decided by the African American turnout.
  • Precinct 8 is the primary locality for a majority of the Ethiopian Americans in Virginia. The report on precinct 8 is: “Obama’s win in Virginia was buoyed by his margin of victory in Northern Virginia, in particular Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and eastern Fairfax County, inclusive of the 8th and 11th Congressional districts…Out of 3,470,390 total votes cast in Virginia, Obama’s 154,238 statewide advantage, for 51.7 percent of the total, was matched almost exactly by his 154,749 margin in the 8th and 11th districts.Read more.

What is to come; we shall see. What these Africa-affiliated public entities will amount to; we have no clue. But their engagements early on in the Obama campaign, the dynamism of the young African-born immigrants who have “the highest median earnings/highest education amongst immigrants in the US” and a common ambition to see a better Africa tells me there are some intriguing times up ahead.

There is due cynicism revolving around Obama’s Africa policies. To be expected, especially when taking over from Bush, reportedly one of the more successful leaders in his engagement with Africa… at a time when the U.S has woes that would restrict the plane of vision of any well-meaning, informed president…And here I issue my disclaimer that I agree with some of the skepticism surrounding the issue. But for once the euphoria makes me see that there is more in our hands than we initially perceive. We should help Obama help us. Stay tuned world.

Childhood Crush

the boy, the city, the spiciness of the experience…

I was 10-12 I think…
Every summer I went to visit my grandmother and great-aunt away from the rainy, muggy kiremt into the sunny humidity of the East. My great-aunt was the precious kind of woman who exuded love to all the kids of the area and gathered them into her home, showering them with the little cares of a grandmother. She would cajole, scold, hug, kiss and nurture as if they were her own. She was many things at all times, the versatile abode that is Woman. Personified, she was the vesicle for culture, the treasure chest of folktales; a linguist, like many in her generation. She spoke Haderi, Arabic, Amharic, Oromiffa, Somali…saying exactly what was on her mind as the need presented itself!

Almost every night, us kids would gather outside by the grayish blue gates around my great aunt’s feet as the sand settles and the heavy nefasha air breezes past the leaves; the teeming starry sky twinkling above us. I was a big fan of these nights, nights of teret teret storytelling about ali babba, the always mischievous monkey and the smart girl, the selfish one…the stepmother (Hmm…maybe this is why I’m such a sucker for breezy warm days that caress as they prode out a contented smile; like a lazy Saturday afternoon by the Potomac waterfront…)

Anyhow, back to another time and place.

Every summer I would reel from excitement as i make my way to Dire to start a month long excursion filled with dankira with the kids and happy days with my adorably talkative aunties. freedom! These summer friends of mine had their own slang; the juiciest kind that combines all the languages of the area. “Kale Waria!!” “Abooooo tewaaa!” “Abshir new, Alhamdililah!” “Intalo, injiru bishaniti?” Qesht, Abo, Senduq, birka, shillingi, roqa, medebir, mamilla, CHebo…and thus I rack my memory: to find all these and more profane wordy varieties…

It was then that I became crush-struck. My younger cousin’s best friend was about 1 year older than I. The star footballer and the little arada of the area with his hitched walk and croaky voice; sure to be crowned mr. congeniality; deserving by far. It seems I was drawn to personality more than looks, even then…He had sharp accented features (big eyes, big nose, brownish soft hair) and he was light-skinned. Tall and skinny be he.

The old ladies were his fans, the other kids admirers of his mischief. Him and Cuz would tell me stories of classroom antics, football rivalries, adventures running errands around Dire and those vicious kids at the khat terra with whom they waged reckless battles. I’m not sure if I wanted to be them in their recklessness and my rebellious tomboy aspirations or hang with them for some girly reasons I couldn’t fathom! Nonetheless, such were the vagaries which plagued the mind of a little girl coming-of-age.

Jeezz, I was so ashamed of my heart doing a violent and loud ruckus! My tongue-tied little mouth releasing hitched breaths …jitters as he played football outside, came to buy Rossmans…crush-struck! lol, It was petrifying for the little girl that I was. It didn’t even occur to me that I could like him. I badly needed to keep my casual ease – sliding smoothly into funny stories, rants and raves about childhood naughtiness …and juicy neighborhood gossip, for good Dire measure…But No! his voice started breaking as I started breaking into sweat! what silliness!

Sure enough I never told him how I felt- maybe because I didn’t know what it was despite the plethora of teenage books and movies I devoured! At age 11, I expected he would laugh in my face. And as we grew older he would come visit and I would grasp at composure, fumbling… Mainly, I would hear about him from other people…he repeated a class, he was thinking of joining the national football team, he joined the team at the ‘C’ level, then went to vocational school for carpentry …finally he’s joined the federal police… and such a path destiny took…

My little memory vesicle still holds this swanky character with fondness…A fondness that encompasses a town full of people in flip-flops and short-sleeved shirts; long skirts and flirty scarves. Neighbors that come out in the fading warmth- in the cool, calming dusk under acacia trees…as they sit on steps across narrow roads and yell out conversations about so-an-so’s illegitimate child and the price of water… ah! the freedom and openness! Dirty laundry always adorns the dingy streets; if u care to stand for a quick second and listen!

This is a town with equal opportunity hoya hoye where girls ran around with boys, chanting and singing for coins; where people (read: bachelors) buy ‘muslim’ meat pasta with marinara sauce in thin plastic bags with handles. The pasta spot sells chick-pea porridge ‘fuul‘ at breakfast (a middle eastern meal? As staple as dunked bread in sweet spicy tea, as far as I could remember)

Here, the mid-afternoon starts with a calm when everyone clamors indoors to chew on khat and rewind after the noon nap… Mid-morning is marked with knocks by entrepreneurial contraband salesmen, beggars and milkmaids calling for attention. And what of the open blue-grey gates? These gates are always ajar. Open to sounds of children kicking around balls; little girls mixing sand to build play-houses…and passersby exchanging greetings along with drips of the social update for the day.

This small city ruckus is topped up with the sound of the mamilla-CHebo coming around asking auntie for lunch or work carrying stuff in between his cigarette swigs. Infamously, this year’s mamilla was an amazingly intelligent english teacher until the blinding sun-khat -and sand turned him looney!

International Development with Obama

The world has been swept with feelings of joy and there are huge and mounting expectations for Obama. Some of the greatest moments of our lifetime and we’re all looking to see what this incredible individual can bring. Here’s some of what we can look forward to in terms of International Development.

“The security and well-being of each and every American is tied to the security and well-being of those who live beyond our borders, according to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. The theme of global interdependence is the bedrock of Obama’s new strategy for America’s engagement in the world, in which global development matters, a lot.

Structuring the U.S. Government to Meet 21st Century Challenges
“To succeed, we must improve our civilian capacity. The finest military in the world is adapting to the challenges of the 21st century. But it cannot counter insurgent and terrorist threats without civilian counterparts who can carry out economic and political reconstruction missions – sometimes in dangerous places. As president, I will strengthen these civilian capacities, recruiting our best and brightest to take on this challenge. I will increase both the numbers and capabilities of our diplomats, development experts, and other civilians who can work alongside our military. We can’t just say there is no military solution to these problems. We need to integrate all aspects of American might.” — Barack Obama, Washington, August 1, 2007

In confronting unprecedented global challenges, a new commitment of resources will not be sufficient. As we have seen from the failure of the Bush administration’s reconstruction efforts in Iraq, assistance is not just money to be thrown at a problem – it is a tool we must use wisely to invest in a more secure and prosperous future.

Barack Obama has called for the creation of a civilian assistance corps, and he will reform the infrastructure that manages U.S. foreign assistance. Today, what we call “foreign aid” is spread across 25 government agencies, programs, and initiatives, with too little of our taxpayers’ resources getting to the problem and no single person within our government responsible for directing and managing what should be one of our most powerful foreign policy tools. Successive administrations have talked the talk of reform, while proliferating
agencies and programs such that American tax dollars are now spent in an uncoordinated and rigid manner at a time when accountable, flexible, and transparent processes are most needed.

Elevate, Streamline and Empower a 21st Century US Development Agency. Barack Obama will lead an effort to modernize our foreign assistance policies, tools, and operations. Obama will coordinate and consolidate PEPFAR, Millennium Challenge Corporation, Middle East Partnership Initiative and many foreign assistance programs currently housed in more than 20 executive agencies into a restructured, empowered and streamlined USAID. He will ensure that this agency has the highest caliber leadership and plays a central role in the formulation and implementation of critical development and related foreign policy strategies. An empowered and elevated agency should be more nimble in the face of change and use tax dollars more responsibly. It is also essential to ensuring that development is established and endures as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy. Obama will mobilize our civilian agencies to address a new set of global challenges and boost the stature of the government’s long-term development mission to attract the most talented professionals.”

Summary:

~Invest in global health infrastructure, including creating health care systems that train and retain health care workers; and (last but not least)

~Coordinate and consolidate the twenty-some U.S. agencies currently involved in U.S. foreign assistance (including the Millennium Challenge Account and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) in a restructured and empowered U.S. Agency for International Development.

~Expand prosperity through investments in agriculture, infrastructure and economic growth so the benefits and burdens of globalization are shared equally and economic policy is seen as central to security policy;

~Create an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative to promote a Green Revolution in Africa in addition to other measures to increase poor farmers’ access to agricultural markets;
~Establish a $2 billion Global Education Fund for primary education to help eliminate the “global education deficit”;
~Launch a Global Energy and Environment Initiative, create an Emerging Market Energy Fund, and spur the creation of an open-source, real-time mapping system to forecast the impacts of climate change country-by-county to address climate change and other global environmental challenges;
~Lead efforts to reform the International Monetary Fund and World Bank;
~Develop a rapid response fund for societies in transition;

Read more in the strategy paper released by Obama for America.

Read More: African Policy of an Obama administration – by McCain Advisor

African Policy for an Obama Administration – by Obama Advisor

the world feels like a different place

History has been Made

obama-blackwhite

I cannot begin to express how this feels! I cannot begin to put thoughts into words! This is awesome; phenomenally, fantasmicaly ahhhhhhhhhhh!– between crying, bouncing about like a monkey and hugging everyone around — I’m at complete loss for reactions. Today at work, I am over-processing information; binging on all the political news and analysis I can find! Just pure erratic, ecstatic ingestion of all info being spewed out about this beautiful beautiful VICTORY!! A victory where the PEOPLE were the change agents. I was looking at my coworkers thinking; wow. They are as excited about the results…him and her too? wow…There was even an impromptu ice cream party and calls for champagne at lunch.

HISTORY WAS MADE through a grassroots victory. The man chosen is a true leader exuding immense maturity, intellect, good measured judgment and an acute and fixed attention on the interdependence of our existences. An individual of awe-inspiring wisdom. A man who sees listening as the true cornerstone for peace! An individual with an incredible grasp for the extremely intricate complications of the world’s systems and yet seems to have a locked focus on the simpleness of humanity’s interconnectedness. A man of Compromise.

When I think of Obama’s perspective on issues this MLK quote comes to mind: “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

At last. The president of the leading nation in the world has been elected due to the quality of his character and not the color of his skin.

At last. This world has a political leader who brings people together, a leader for us to look up to and say – I want to be like him/i want my kids to be like him when they grow up.

Finally. Finally. Finally.

Congratulations all my beautiful People rejoicing all across the world, from Addis to Lima to Moyale to Jedda. The opportunity to make change is truly and surly in the handsof the PEOPLE of the leading nation in the world.

The People

More than anything — America has sung out to the world that indeed a democracy of the people, for the people, by the people is possible! That is HUGE! Anything is Possible. We will have to wait and see how the Obama Administration plans to engage the owners of the Obama campaign, but everyone testifies to the grassroot nature of the Obama Movement.

The people own the campaign, the people should own the presidency! This is the real call to real ACTION. To speak up, to end the revolting taste of apathy and take the issues further work for a better order! It’s striking that during his victory speech Obama sounded so sober and calm. Indeed the road ahead is steep and hard. And there’s plenty reason to be overjoyed — everyone is invited to the round table. It’s the People’s Ball and all need to come out and partaaaay – start dancing on that round table!

Sobering Reality

For the world; the sobering realization is that America is a nation with its individual national interests; and that shall not change. We have seen a Clinton America sitting around sipping coffee over the definitions of the word ‘genocide’ as hundreds of thousands have died; we have seen a neutral America standing by as war is waged in the dry barren corners of the world where American interest is not adorned with neon lights. We have seen the failures in Moqadisho and the back-seat position cool gaze of the US in place of a prodding finger to abusive, nondemocratic governments across the world- that prod did not happen to the ‘right’ direction if the right direction was not for US interest…

The sobering reality is that a man of African decent in the white house – an East African American none-the-less is not going to herald emancipation from many of the chains in daily life within East Africa. BUT — this moment is huge because this IS going to be a different Washington. This will be a Washington without lobbyists at the forefront but a clear invitation for individuals to become activists and for organizations like Africans/Ethiopians/Eritreans/Somalians for Obama to to actively involve their communities in issues they care about through organizing. This is a Washington with ears for the humanitarian pleas of its people who are clearly gaining more and more interest in a better world order (refer to the numbers of study abroaders, international volunteerism and development initiatives by the American people). This would be a government which listens and has the potential to be less of a selfish chess player aiming for a win in foreign affairs less but rather — with a beacon of light guiding its Foreign Affairs agenda: Defense, Diplomacy, Development. There are rumors about a possible proposal in the Obama Administration to establish a separate Department of International Development, expanding the small agency USAgency for International Development currently under a department. This would elevate international development as an issue of national importance on equal level as Condi’s Department of State issues.

A Moment for Africans in the Diaspora

This is not the same Washington that the developing country governments sent lobbyists to, for ruling party interests. This is a Washington glancing away from lobbyists to give an opportunity for people to scream out what they want and be heard; for diaspora communities to have a voice. It is your moment Ethiopians in the Diaspora! Horn of African Americans.

Being Black in America

We are at the pinnacle of an incredibly historic event which has people dancing in the streets across the world! This pinnacle would arguably be the very end of the Civil War (awesome article by Friedman). We can believe again — ALL things are Possible even the realization of an old joke in Kisumu that a Luo-Kenyan will become president of the United States before becoming president of Kenya.

And lastly and most passionately, there was the Jessie Jackson minutes of tears. — that said beyond words the meaning of Obama’s status as the first African American President of the United States only 40 years after the murder of MLK. Years of struggle and pain for a people has reached the pinnacle of a dream being realized.

Anything is possible! YES WE CAN and WE DID!

Reactions from Around the World:

In Tunisia, the Arabic daily Al Chourouk said: “Today America elects “The President of the World.”

Many in the international media are saying stuff along the lines of “THE END of 8 years in hell. Wooo hooooo” :D

Obama’s family in Kenya were partying and getting ready to start packing for the white house “Who needs a passport? We’re going to the White House!” they sang.

“This has restored my faith in democracy,” said Duncan Adel, a computer technician who had been part of the election protests in Kenya last year.

“The World Enters America” was the headline of the Hindustan Times lead editorial Wednesday morning, reminding the 44th president of the United States to be mindful of an interconnected world roiled by a financial crisis and two wars. “For America to chart these choppy waters, it will have to have a helmsman who understands and engages with the world on the world’s terms,” it urged. – New Delhi, India

“The biggest economy in the world has a leader that the world can talk to,” said Alejandro Saks, an Argentine television scriptwriter. “There is the feeling that for the first time since Kennedy, America has a different type of leader.” – Buenes Aires, Argentina

United States of Immigrants

ain’t it funny? :)

wait on this line if you can afford a quick identity adjustment aka ‘plasticsurgeryvilleUSI’

…if you prefer to survive an extended period of gruesome metamorphosis, this other track is for you. oh poor u, ain’t u waitin’ to be a butterfly while u exist many years as a caterpillar?

all else fails? u got our buddy Obama!…he’s gonna talk u into some nice makeovers ;)

change we can believe in!

or u’re out!

On t’Brink Again: Hungry Horn

the looping setting on the horn of africa. BAM!
2008 ~9.6 million hungry people (hi food prices), 3.25 million affected by drought.
2001 ~over 12 million people in Ethio, Eritrea needing urgent aid within drought.
1984 ~ 5-7 million affected with very high death rate: drought/delayed response/war.
read more.

it’s worse than the last time…they say…

i did something last time.

i wonder if i will again.

having experienced being at one of the sites they always show on news clips of people collecting food, i am intrigued by how news stories depict the scene…
here’s a pre-commentary, pre-news-edit video, part of the world food programme press release on the drought…

the bareness of the video was chilling to watch. but specifically, watching it in detached mode, i could think of a million ways someone could cut and paste this to make it ‘news worthy’. now, take that little snip with naked emaciated kids with bloated bellies, children collecting grains from the dust.
this piece of material could make a bang…yes, it is indeed as bad as 1984. yes, indeed this is the condition of the horn. sad reality that it is…

at the risk of viewers dismissing the news piece scoffing ‘ahhh…yea…didn’t they have that show on last nite? that infomercial about giving money to feed starving babies?’ the ‘pity-worthy-ness’ to a lesser degree, and the creative spin to a greater degree. these could be the uumph that can compete with other news pieces for the front page, the headline, the breaking news…and prove the point this is indeed comparable to 1984. the always-ness of africa. take a look!

i wonder.
what could be going through the camera person’s mind while they’re recording it? or the producers’ in thinking about what appeals to his audience? what kinda agenda/bias do they bring by editing?
relaying the urgency of the situation, the need for response…a successful news story that reaches the front page…tv superstandome?? i guess good news, is no news…

but really… what of the things that fall through the cracks. that wouldn’t bolster stereotypes…
a cultural value system and context lost in translation? like…respect and reverence of food in that it shouldn’t be wasted. Proverb: “migib kibur new”/”food is to be revered.” This presumes all food is not to be wasted unless it has been contaminated irreversibly…
Also, there may be different conceptions of contamination and germs…and an integrated perception of food-and nature…along with different ideas on ‘wastefulness’ ‘food’ ‘materialism’….’cleanliness’…
an understanding of these things make the scene with kids scrambling for grains on the sandy ground less dramatic.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

the construction of recent history
…versus a recording of the past…

Lifestyle treat: Abuara

You know the strangest little thing about memory? remembering those most irksome little bothers in life with unrelenting fondness. nostalgia …isn’t it the weirdest thing about memory?

It was in Ginbot, very close to the national exams,

the time - mid afternoon-ish
when dusty dry particles billow out from pavements
surrounding, adding noise to vision…
little flakes …pricking below the lids.

walking against a dust cloud…


skipped classes for tastier ventures
crashing day parties
gripping the trilling lures of adulteration
lethargic on cafe chairs
see …be seen…
whom, what…
clarity, enclosed in a whooshing sound as
foggy teenage distractions revolve around
the mind
that’s another strange thing about memory
fog….but this Ginbot had no fog
au contraire mon amie!
the horizon was so bright the sky was sparkling.
a piercing white sun shone down like BouZA lights.
specks of dust as they rose from the ground
chocking up airy volume
chipped blue and white paint of taxis
smeared with flakes of brownness. dust.
mirrored by: cloud, blue sky, dust…

the innocence? of school girls in uniforms.
prancing along the pavement,
flimsy thoughts floating- of social swank and swagger.
chatter on details of so-and-so, cliquesy clique qlink…
gossipy chitchat;

joyous giggles surrounded by dust cloud.
slinking words. talks of aspirations, pop pop culture…

air rumbling before a storm.
pensive. big exam. big stuff…big decisions.
whether …she’s going to be going
….the hair salon once every 2 weeks and full on primping for cafe lethargic,
or an alternate existence…in foreign space…
hmmm, days stomping addis streets chasing lifestyle treats….

Yell-o nailpolish

did she know? she got a sticker stuck on her,

in a box with labels pressed to hips.
they read a sign on her forehead
in bright orange sharpie scribble
did you know? or you imagined?

yellow nail polish on fingertips and toes.
even as paint flakes where paint cracks…
messy dry dribbles on toe tips
speak out bright loudness in yell-o

tears… despite smudges of eyeliner smearing
crying out speaking
drawing lines on eye lids
dulled shades of dark. shades of sad.
shades of thoughts.

echoes resounding
screams bouncing
on the afro, nail polish, tear smudges.

pent up breath explodes
release me
release. let be

and you, with raised eyebrows and crinkled lips
shrink mignon!

Individual Gleam of Light

“A man should learn to detect and watch the gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thoughts, because, it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own reject thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

not boasting to be more special than others, but unique in my individual specialness. believing i have a gleam just as special as the next person…