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 Njoroge Wachai Kenya Njoroge is a journalist who formerly wo

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MessageNjoroge Wachai Kenya Njoroge is a journalist who formerly wo

Njoroge Wachai


Njoroge is a journalist who formerly worked for the Kenya-based People Daily.

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What Obama Owes Africa

Dear President Obama:

There's nowhere your presidency matters more than in Africa. I know
some will differ with me on this; they will, rightly, say that your top
priority should be to serve America. Well, I agree, but I must remind
you of the folly of forgetting your roots.

Expectations are as high for your presidency in Africa as they are
here in the U.S. You would deny your African roots at your own peril.
Your deceased father hailed from Kenya, and that White House, where
you'll be residing for the next four years, or eight years if you win
in 2013, was built by African slaves. Don't you think you owe us

Now Mr. President, please don't get me wrong; we're not seeking
handouts from your administration. We're smart enough to know America
doesn't dole out freebies. What we want is an Africa that sticks to
some of the ideals that you too much championed during the campaigns:
democracy; respect for human rights; accountability and transparency
from our leaders; trade policies that can create wealth in Africa and
put more people to work. We're tired of visiting Washington with a
begging bowl in hand.

Obama, we Africans especially appreciate that your journey to the
presidency was arduous. You scaled mountains and valleys that most of
us thought you couldn't. We heard you remind all and sundry the
challenges that faced your candidacy. We watched and listened racial
epithets being hurled at you, but you kept your cool. You never
contemplated pulling out of the contest out of the belief that few
successes come on a silver platter. How exciting was it to see you
rally even people who didn't align with your political and religious

You're a true believer in democracy and freedom for all. Democracy
and freedom, as the whole world witnessed during the campaigns, are
pretty much entrenched in American politics. How else would you have
won an election as hotly contested as last year's? You weren't an
establishment candidate, but you made it. On various occasions, I heard
you say that in America if you try and work hard you can conquer
mountains. This doesn't seem to be the case in Africa because greed and
corruption seem to be a way of life there. Remind those corrupt African
leaders that, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, there's enough for
everybody's need but not enough for everyone's greed.

As the rest of the world turns the page on political and economic
fronts, your African brothers and sisters remain stuck in the table of
contents out of fault not their own, but that of their greedy leaders.
They're dying in millions from wars started by power-hungry despots.
There's virtually nothing to write about the economic well-being of
ordinary Africans because their leaders would rather stuff their own
pockets instead of distributing their countries' wealth to all. I'm
sure these are the people you were referring to in your inaugural
speech when you warned, "To those leaders around the globe who
......blame their society's ills on the West -- know that your people
will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."

For all of his failings, Africans will judge your predecessor,
George W. Bush, on what he built, what he contributed to the continent.
He looks like a messiah to Africa for the massive aid he channeled
there to fight HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other neglected
diseases. Imagine what you could contribute in Africa if you helped
tamp down the corruption and waste that daily plague our people there.

President Obama, how do you plan to deal with leaders who you said
"...cling to power through corruption and deceit?" Will you come down
hard on them? We hope so. And I advise that you start with your late
father's birthplace, Kenya. That country is slowly becoming an eyesore.
Recently President Kibaki signed a law that empowered the government to
seize broadcasting stations and open people's mail. This is the same
person who's reported to have said that your victory inspired many

President Obama, memories are still fresh about the events of
December 2007 in Kenya, when post-election violence claimed the lives
of about 1,500 people. Politicians, some of whom now serve as cabinet
ministers in the coalition government of President Kibaki and Prime
Minister Raila Odinga, presided over horrendous killings of innocent
Kenyans whose only sin was to belong to the wrong tribe. Nobody has
been brought to book so far. Actually, they continue looting public
resources with abandon. Lately, they've been implicated in the disappearance of close to $10 million meant to buy corn for starving populations.
Last month, it was revealed that $87 million was lost in an oil pumping
station scandal; some government officials were implicated in the
scandal. Around the same period, an additional $100 million was lost from an oil deal gone sour. On the day of your inauguration, some government officials wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars to travel to D.C. despite the fact that you had not invited them. All this is happening in a country to which you have close ties.

President Obama, crack down on corruption and abuse of human rights
in Africa. Use your political capital to bring peace to Darfur, Sudan.
Help emancipate the people of Zimbabwe from the despotic rule of Robert
Mugabe. This - not aid - is the best gift you can give the African
continent. Once there's a conducive environment to engage in trade and
to express ourselves, without fear of imprisonment of any other form of
harassment, the rest will take care of itself.

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Posted by Njoroge Wachai on January 28, 2009 10:04 AM

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