Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Africa: Get Ready for Disappointment

Surely, Obama’s victory has sparked hope and optimism among many around the globe. No doubt his presidency has helped to lift the head of many black folks around the globe. Surely, his Kenyan roots have brought a sense of pride, especially for the Luo tribe, but even for the entire Kenya as a nation.

But pride is where story starts and ends.

I know that at the back of many African presidents, there are hopes of frequent White House trips. I know African small and big fisadis are expecting generous aid packages that will flow directly to their pot bellies. I can bet my life on this – that there are Africans who are hoping that the African story will change, that the continent will now see prosperity.

Let me just rain on that parade before it gets started. Ain’t nothing going to change.

The high expectations are rooted in Africa’s own mentality and cultural tendencies – and that is of harboring tribalism. I can surely tell you that Luos in Kenya are feeling good right about now. That is because from a traditional view, Obama is not representing Michelle, Sasha, Malia and the American people alone, he is representing the entire Kogelo. He is representing cousins and aunts he has never met.

And that’s where the cultural warfare will begin.

See, the truth is that Barack grew up in the American culture, where having Kenyan roots is just that – having Kenyan roots. That is because America is formed by folks with ancestral roots in other countries. It just happens Barack can trace those roots one generation removed. I wonder if, in his mind, he views his role the way his Luo cousins view it.

Contrary to the African culture which promotes communal connectedness, the American culture (which Barack grew up in) stresses individual responsibility and accountability. As such, the hopes that Barack will now carry the load of the entire Luo “tribe” will meet a disappointing response.

Another stumbling block for my African brothers will be this – while Obama will be the most powerful man on earth, his political power does not go unchecked. I know, I know, African presidents have all the power. So if you think Luos will start getting Federal jobs like Kibaki offers them to Kikuyu in Kenya, sorry amigos. The American system of true checks and balances will hold Barack primarily responsible and accountable to the American people, and not to his own family and friends.

I can only predict one thing: that by the virtue of Obama being black, he will actually have the power to crush and whip crazy mentalities that African leaders have held for years, without being accused of exercising some sort of a Western supremacy. If his trip to Kenya as a Senator – where he urged Kenyans to act tough on corruption was any indication, then expect more tough stances.

My point is this – Obama is not an African president. He is the president of the United State of America. The sooner that sinks in the minds of Africans, the better.
Photo Credit: Michuzi


Whitney said...

This is the first writing I have read from you, nice to meet you. My question: Why do you care?

Jaduong Metty said...

I'm an African, so I care about African progress, including methodologies and strategies through which that progress can be achieved.

Furthermore, I understand the African cultural tendencies that create some expectations. Knowing what I know, I was just trying to let African's calm down.

Did that help?

Mzee Mzima (Wayne) said...

I think you have made some very good points - not only will Obama not 'endorse' bad African leadership, he will actually be highly critical of it. The other part that plays into this is the fact that (as you well know - living and working in the US)he is going to be very focused on domestic issues for at least several years (economy, economy, economy) and he will probably leave foreign policy issues to appointees within his administration as he focuses on the plethora of internal / domestic issues. Let us hope and pray that he can be successful and lead the US back to a more stable situation - regardless of his skin color, cultural & historical roots.
On a personal note - sorry I have been absent for so long - been busy and I lost my high speed internet access - I am back to the stone age with dial up. Hope your holiday season is bright and cheerful and full of the blessings God intends for you.
Mzee Mzima (Wayne)