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Obama is our sacred guest, let us welcome him with honour, and peace

30th June 2013
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Editorial Cartoon

On Monday, July 1, this year,, Jatelo Maduong’, the Luo words for Paramount leader, will visit Tanzania.

Obama whose origin is Kenya’s South Nyanza Province in Kogelo village, the land of Luos, has ditched his native country, and has chosen Tanzania as the only place that he would visit in this region during his second visit to Africa. In his Luo language, Obama will be ‘wendo modhial’ or sacred guest of the people of the United Republic of Tanzania.

However, since the news broke out that the US President Barack Obama will be visiting Tanzania, but won’t go to his native country, Kenya, there have been so many speculations about the motive behind his visit.

What annoys many is that most of the rumours do not carry any credible evidence; some are propagated by those who see malice in everything done by United States of America. For instance, there’s rumour that Obama is coming to Tanzania because of the huge natural gas that has been discovered in the Southern regions of Lindi and Mtwara.

Even when George Bush came here in 2008, his visit was also connected to the African Barrick Gold, while others claimed that he came here strategically to lobby Dar es Salaam to allow its territory to be used as a command base for US Africa Force (Africom). It was also rumoured that the US would acquire a chunk of Kigamboni for its military base. But till today, that area still belongs to Tanzanians and is set for a major urban development programme in future.

Five years later, another US president is coming to Tanzania for an official visit, and to the surprise of many, this time it’s not Kigamboni; it’s about our natural resources, according the so-called local analysts. To these self-styled analysts, Obama’s visit is linked to our recently discovered natural gas.

The truth of the matter is that if US companies want to exploit your resources, they don’t need to dispatch their President to visit your country. This is because these companies are so connected to the global economy that you cannot avoid their shadows.

According to a statement by the US embassy, trade and economy would top President Obama’s tour in Africa. “A moment of promise for Africa”, will be the slogan of President Obama during his second visit to Africa.

His visit seeks to refocus US attention on Africa on areas such as economic cooperation, strengthening institutions of democracy and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

But assuming that Obama’s visit was connected to the recent discovered natural gas, would he then take it by force? If there are any deals between the two countries regarding investments in natural resources, then those deals would be sealed according to the existing Tanzanian laws.

During his first term in office, President Jakaya Kikwete tried so hard to market our local businessmen in the United States so that they could find partners there, but those efforts didn’t bear enough positive results because majority of the so-called businesspeople were not serious enough to win the trust of the multinationals.

If President Kikwete was willing to market our businesspeople in the US, then what’s wrong if President Obama, for instance, were to decide to do the same -- provided all such deals are sealed according to the existing regulations?

The problem with our so-called analysts is that most of them were born and raised in the cold-war era, and so they still suffer from that cold-war hangover. What these analysts fail to understand is that the end of the cold war also produced some key events, which have since shaped the way the global economy functions.

Some of the key events that emerged after the end of the cold war includes the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Union Soviet States of Russia.

What followed after these three major events was the birth of a new ‘animal’ called globalization under which nations were told to open up their territories for the flow of cross-border capitals or Foreign Direct Investments (FDI). Not only that but we were all also forced to embrace globalization by liberalizing our markets, businesses and reforming our laws in order to cope with the new order.

This being the case, it’s therefore absurd to believe that if US companies want to trade with Tanzania, then the first thing is to dispatch the world’s most powerful president to come here to clear the atmosphere. Those days of John the Baptist are long gone.

The United States of America is beyond coming to Tanzania just to steal our resources. If they went to the moon in 1969, and now to the Mars, what’s the big deal with them doing business with Africa? Aren’t we allowed to do business with US companies ourselves?

If we have the Chinese running businesses in our midst, including such mundane things as vehicle repair garages, why not have US companies doing business with us provided everything is done according to the law made and passed by the Parliament of the United Republic of Tanzania?

Why all the fuss? After all, Obama is the first black American with roots from Kenya, in East Africa, to lead the world’s most powerful nation.

This was the dream of many American activists – such as Dr Martin Luther King in the 1960s. So Obama’s visit will, among other things, inspire many people politically especially our youths.

This is the man we cherished when he was first elected in 2008, and did the same last year during his re-election. Today, this same man has chosen to visit Tanzania; instead of welcoming him, we are busy spreading our cheap gospels.

When Jakaya Kikwete became the first leader to meet Obama soon after he was elected, some Kenyans reacted so negatively that they used their media to question even the discussions that transpired between the two leaders. When Obama first visited Africa, he chose Ghana, ditching his native country of Kenya, a situation that also kicked off spirited criticism in his father’s homeland.

Today, Obama has chosen to visit Tanzania in the East African region, ditching Kenya and Uganda, which have also discovered oil.

Suddenly, his visit to this country is being linked to gas discoveries. The truth is that Tanzania is a strategic partner in this region in terms of peace, security and above all trade.

America as a nation, so powerful as it were, also has its strategies shaped by its foreign policies. We will recall that Bill Clinton came to Arusha on a peace mission. President Obama won’t be the first or last US leader to visit Tanzania.

We cannot be a nation of conspiracy theories where we see malice in everything even in our own lives! When the Chinese President came here, the pro-western analysts saw malice. Today, the US president is visiting Tanzania we see the same arguments being raised by the anti-American group.

America is not a nation of saints and angels, and it has never claimed to be so. But this doesn’t mean whenever its president visits our country, then we are in deep trouble economically.

If we have resources which attract American investors, then what’s wrong with that provided both sides negotiate a fair deal?

While Obama is just as bad as the US government to some analysts, to many he is the role model and proof that the world’s most powerful nation has changed from the dark era when the black among its citizens were barred from voting. This is something that has failed in many African countries where we still choose our leaders basing on their race, tribes, religion, ethnic background and material prosperity.

Obama’s journey from grass to grace is an inspiration to many youths in Africa. It is a journey well captured in his two books, the Audacity for Change and A Dream From my Father. To our young politicians and business leaders, Obama is more than a US President; he is a symbol of inspiration and hope.

Obama’s story has been told many times by journalists and the authors of several biographies and campaign books, and most memorably by the president himself, who in the days before he became a politician wrote a remarkably eloquent and searching memoir (“Dreams From My Father”) about his youth, his struggle to come to terms with his absent father, and his groping efforts to forge an identity of his own.

That story is also well captured by David Remnick in his book, The Bridge, published one year after Obama’s victory as the first American of African descent to rule America. This book originates from The New Yorker Magazine’s thoughtful 2008 article titled, “The Joshua Generation: Race and the Campaign of Barack Obama.

In this book, Remnick describes Mr. Obama as a son who aspired to be calm, rooted and responsible in all the ways that his volatile and unreliable father was not, and as an avid student who craved mentors he could learn from, like the constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe at Harvard and Senator Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois.

He notes that Mr. Obama was a quick learner, who was not much of a speaker at first (“he was stentorian, professorial, self-serious a cake with no leavening”), and who could “change styles without relinquishing his genuineness,” subtly shifting “accent and cadences depending on the audience.”

Explicating the theme of self-creation that runs through “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Remnick gives an acute, often moving reading of that book. “In high school,” he writes, “Barry eventually stopped writing letters to his father.

His effort to understand himself was a lonely one. Touchingly, awkwardly, he was giving himself instruction on how to be black.”

That’s why his story is an inspirational to the young generation not only in Africa, but also around the globe.

To Africans, especially Tanzanians who live next door with Kenyans, Obama is our son. If we hate America as a nation, that’s something else, but the man who is coming here is our son, brother, uncle and above all our fellow African who has fulfilled Martin Luther’s famous speech, “I have a dream”.

We at the Guardian would like to say, “Karibu President Obama, the first African-American President and the symbol of inspiration to those who have lost hopes.”

Welcome to the land of Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar the cradle of peace in Africa, and the Land of Julius K Nyerere.

Editor’s note: The original version of this editorial was first published on June 15, this year. Due to the historic visit by the US President, we have decided to reprint this editorial with minor changes mainly in headline.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY