by Jean-Paul Pougala, translated from French by Sarli Sardou Nana
Three years ago you ignited an entire continent, the African continent, during the presidential primaries of the Democratic Party. And when you were elected president, we believed in you and saw this son of Africa in you, who had succeeded and could now serve as reference for a billion Africans.
You seemed to be the hero we have never had, because our heroes have become legends based on the emotions aroused by their short lives – all killed by the Europeans. With your election as president of the United States of America, we thought for a moment that you were the Black demi-god that Africa is still searching for after all these years of shame while in contact with Europe. Yes, Mr. President, we knew that you were elected by Americans to maintain the interests of your country, but what did you expect?
Did you think you were also our president, that you had our genes? We had dreams with our eyes wide open that you were also our Black brother. All of us saw you as one of us, as someone who was able to understand the cries and sufferings of Africans better than any other person in a position of power on earth. We wore your shirts, we chanted your slogan, “YES WE CAN.” But in our minds, in Africa, we had given it a different meaning. The explanation was that the fate of a forsaken race had suddenly taken a new turn for the better, the same process of evolution of other races. CHANGE! Indeed.
And then your blunders on Africa started happening which we took with great tolerance and indulgence. Then the blunders were gradually transformed into political mistakes and then ended up in humiliation and outright attacks. The latest and most serious political mistake being the attack against Libya.
You seemed to be the hero we have never had.
When on Jan. 20, 2009, you took an oath by swearing on the Bible, following your illustrious predecessor, Abraham Lincoln, becoming the 44th president of the United States of America, this gesture was highly symbolic and reminiscent to us – the hopes of coming together and of reconciliation which never took place between Europeans and Africans, between whites and Blacks.
That day marked for the American and African people, bound by a painful past, the
But after more than two years of your presidency, the warmth you had aroused in our hearts in Africa quickly turned into a cold shower and the fire of hope that you ignited in us was quickly extinguished by the destructive tide of the ocean of your bombs against the African people – 120 cruise missiles in one night in one African capital, Tripoli. The more we get to know you through your real actions in Ivory Coast and Libya, the more we become fearful of you.
Your African policies, characterised by arrogance and support to the powerful, to crush the weak means history will place you at odds with the path taken by President Lincoln.
We are not expecting much from you as we are accustomed to carrying our cross without screaming, without whining, without complaining, but we hoped that you would at least be neutral in the oppressor-oppressed relationships still raging today between Europe and Africa. To our surprise, you have chosen your side, that of our oppressors. And you have put substantial resources into play to curb our desire for emancipation, to stifle the momentum of freedom.
But be in no doubt Mr. Obama, the African youths throughout the globalized world have long understood how your system enslaved their parents; but also, they understand that our misery, our suffering, our humiliations are not irreparable as they are not engraved in marble. In the words of President Abraham Lincoln to a visitor to the White House: “You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.”
Five centuries of deception from your allies is being challenged by the advent of a new era: the end of the reign of the oppressor. We are nearing the day of reckoning – the epilogue to the story of our shared history.
It started on June 16, 1452, when the 208th Pope, Nicolas V, through the papal bull named Dum diversa, authorised King Alfonso V of Portugal to deport and enslave the people of Guinea (Africa) – the beginning of a long dark period for Africa. The discovery of America in 1492 worsened the plight of our ancestors with the multiplication of their deportation to the New World for four centuries, and this nightmare would last up until the accession to power of the man Abraham Lincoln.
Our misery, our suffering, our humiliations are not irreparable as they are not engraved in marble.
Five centuries of deception from your allies is being challenged by the advent of a new era: the end of the reign of the oppressor.
That is what gave Europe ideas to the extent of depriving them of the fodder that brought them the lucrative slave trade. Europe had to respond to one question: how to enjoy the benefits of the industrial North of the United States, while retaining those of the Southern slaves? The answer was found and is called the COLONIZATION OF AFRICA.
It is for this reason that in 1884, German Chancellor Bismarck organised the famous, three-month-long Berlin Conference, where 14 countries would decide how to restore the chains of slavery on Africans – invisible chains that would be called COLONIZATION. And it appeared in the plans of the creators of these plans – the same destiny of subordination of Africans which Lincoln fought against. There is no need to deport them; they must stay in slavery in Africa to support the nascent industry in Europe and boost the economy of the entire old continent. And it is this long ordeal that we live in today in ways more subtle and unpredictable.
With your election, we had dreamt for a moment that our brother, Barack Hussein Obama, would put an end to the oppression suffered by an entire continent for far too long. But your decision to join the requiem that Europe has been serving to us since February 1885, that is to say, since the end of the Berlin Conference, sounded the death knell for us in the hopes for Obama.
And suddenly, the CHANGE in your presidential campaign quickly turned into more and more CHAINS for us Africans. Your new chains are just as unpredictable as colonization itself:
1. In the Ivory Coast, they were in the form of a video you sent to explain to the people that their president was in violation of the constitutional order they had established with great difficulty.
2. Your chains arrived in the form of military boots in your strange form of democracy with the message that to be sure to participate in and win a presidential election in Africa, a political party should first of all build up an army – a good army, preferably funded by the United States of America.
4. In Africa it was believed that the German Chancellor Bismarck and his 13 companions had successfully completed the biggest heist in the history of humanity with a mafia-type partition of an entire continent, but you have demonstrated that there could be worse: In Libya, you have simply substituted yourself for the Libyan people, deciding for them who their “sole legitimate representatives” are.
This time, the crime is perfect. No need to be caught red-handed sharing pieces of land; it suffices to choose the richer lands and to handpick who their representatives are and it’s game over. It’s dead easy and it can pay big dividends. But you seem to forget, Mr. President, that this formula has shown its limits before in history, including in South Africa, where a handful of racist whites were recognized by yourselves as unique representatives of the people of South Africa. The rest is history.
This is similar with what happened in China in 1949, where Taiwan was your Benghazi of 2011. Taiwan was chosen by yourselves as the sole representative of the Chinese people. Again, their history proved you wrong.
5. Your new chains come to Africa in the form of resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations. Who would have thought that a so-called resolution calling for the protection of the people of Benghazi would turn into an operation of punishment on the people of Tripoli – punishment for committing the unthinkable, supporting the man who took their country in 1969, when it was the poorest of Africa with $60 per capita per year, and turning it, by 2011, into one of the most developed countries on the continent, ranked by the United Nations as 53rd in the world on the human development index – even ahead of many European countries.
This time, the crime is perfect. No need to be caught red-handed sharing pieces of land; it suffices to choose the richer lands and to handpick who their representatives are and it’s game over.
Libya is the only country in the non-communist world where all the basic services are absolutely free, from housing to health through to education, with a guaranteed minimum income to preserve the human dignity of all Libyan citizens.
7. When you shared a podium with Cameron and Sarkozy on April 15, 2011, with the headline “Gaddafi must go,” can you tell me, Mr. President, who gave you the right to decide which African president should stay and which should leave? I am still pondering and I still do not understand what aspect of democracy your initiatives fit into, except the principles of the “Far West,” where the strongest make the weakest abandon their land and herds to go and try to survive elsewhere.
Libya is the only country in the non-communist world where all the basic services are absolutely free.
How then could one not absolutely agree with the member of your Democratic Party, Jerrold Nadler, who, after the blow inflicted on you by Congress on June 24, 2011, by rejecting the text allowing your military intervention in Libya, said: “President Obama behaves like an absolute monarch, and we must stop him immediately if we do not want to become an empire rather than a republic.”
Considering some of these points, there is no doubt that for us Africans, the difference between you and Lincoln is like the difference between day and night. You have a strange concept of democracy when it comes to Africa, with yourself as a true monarch making decisions in place of the people and treating them with such condescension which proves that you are very far removed from the ideals of Lincoln, who wrote: “As I would not be a slave, I would not be a master. This is my idea of democracy. Anything that differs … is not of democracy.”
Mr. President, in your policies towards Africa, you behave as a master, giving lessons as an oppressor, the opposite of Abraham Lincoln.
You know better than anyone that the European Union unanimously supports Africans who can prove to be the most capable of maintaining the invisible chains of slavery on their own brothers and sisters.
Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, imprisoned in 1934 at the age of 16 by the British settlers, became president in 1953. He was named by the United Kingdom as the “Mussolini of the Nile” for replacing the monarchy with a republic, nationalizing a range of services, industries and the Suez Canal, and worse – he destroyed the cotton fields of the colonial era to accelerate the industrialization of his country. For all these sins, he survived 10 attempts on his life in London and Paris. But Nasser was luckier than Qaddafi because the U.S. president, Eisenhower, had the political courage to stop these countries in 1956 that triggered a war, according to them, to “protect the Egyptian people from a dictator.”
You know better than anyone that the European Union unanimously supports Africans who can prove to be the most capable of maintaining the invisible chains of slavery on their own brothers and sisters.
President Eisenhower had the courage that you do not have – to have been able to stop them and demand they immediately withdraw from Egypt, even though the Soviet Union used nuclear threat to make them give in.
President Lincoln paid a heavy price by abolishing slavery in the United States. He paid with his life to give us our freedom – but his enemies are not dead, they are stronger than ever with the same repugnant idea of enslavement of Africans with all their descendants, just as recited by the papal bull.
Abraham Lincoln, unlike yourself, had an ideal. Although not of the same race as us, he was able to put himself in our place in order to understand our sufferings and our shame. He was able to go beyond partisan considerations for the triumph of justice and morality. He has put himself on the side of the downtrodden just to be on the side of human dignity. The triumph of an idea of humanism generated the most deadly war on United States soil.
Mr. Obama, with your bombs on the African people and your choice of assisting the strong and powerful against the weak, can we say the same about you? What are your true ideals? I am perplexed to understand your sense of humanism.
You see, Mr. President Obama, in modern history we Africans are a nation of losers. For 500 years we have not won any battle against Europe. Also, we have never triggered any hostility against the people of Europe. We have always suffered. Our ancestors could do nothing to counter them during the centuries of exile and today we are powerless over their devastating folly.
We are aware of our weakness and that of our ancestors. Yes, we are a race that has lost; we lost every battle against the West and perhaps you would tell me that we are losers forever. But, Mr. President, beyond the cup and medal winner, the loser has something the others do not know or see which ultimately makes it harder – it is the suffering, disgrace and shame of defeat.
These three elements have given us, over the centuries, a treasure – a power that the winner does not know, and it is called humility – suppression. In our modesty, the African can be happier than the European or American who claims the universe, if and only if you stop destroying us with your bombs. Our greatest strength is in the simplicity that has given us the courage to withstand the ups and downs of history.
Our failure to claim anything and our disinterest in wanting the world, gives us the serenity to move slowly but steadily towards our normal human paradise, that is to say, without servitude. And not even your bombs will stop us.
Like Lincoln, we are building the United States of Africa from the Cape in South Africa to Cairo in Egypt and we are aware that this is a problem for the West, for you know that it will make us less naive and therefore able to stop the plundering of the continent which has lasted too long.
Whereas, Africa is already awake with or without you, with or without your attack. We envisage the release of the first African currency in 2016. Your attack against Libya may delay this deadline but not reverse it because our path to human progress is irreversible. Your war will prolong the agony of the European economy but will not ensure its survival. The financial situation in Greece is here to remind us, as their descent into hell is just as irreversible.
And the rope for climbing the mountains of the injustice of your system, built in universal laws which you just used in the Ivory Coast and Libya, may precipitate your country into the abyss of despondency because of your hawkish choices that are dangerous as they are detestable.
You managed to humiliate us in Cote d’Ivoire. You are in the process of demeaning us even more in Libya, but you will not have our tears as they are crystallised by many centuries of European sadism. You will not get our despair. For far too long we remained lying on the ground under the yoke of the powerful and so, on the contrary, we can no longer fall – we can only stand up.
During your visit to Accra, Ghana, July 11, 2009, you stated in your speech, “As much as it is important to be free from the control of another nation, it is even more important to form your own nation.” By taking the president, democratically elected by the Ivorian people, hostage, you do not help the country to form their own nation. Instead, you are helping to prevent them from freeing themselves from the control of another nation.
Your secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, during her trip to Lusaka, Zambia, June 11, 2011, took your logic further by warning us against the risk of colonization by the Chinese saying: “It’s easy, and we saw this in colonial times, to come in, pay leaders and take out natural resources.” For these words, I sincerely thank you for your advice as an African, but particularly on China, I want to make some comments:
1. Unlike the West that imposes on Africa without ever asking her opinion, China has been invited. This is hugely different from the relations that existed between the West and Africa and that continue to exist today.
You are in the process of demeaning us even more in Libya, but you will not have our tears as they are crystallised by many centuries of European sadism.
To hear the West worry about any colonization of Africa by China is a novelty in international diplomacy. This sudden concern is the evidence, Mr. President, that we live in different worlds: historical, cultural, social, economic, political and psychological. The rapport that has always existed between us for centuries was that of “dominator – dominated.”
Colonization is the act of coming and appropriating the best of our lands and then forcing us to work on them. And when we cannot produce a certain quantity of bananas, cocoa, coffee or cotton, the colonizer chooses one of us randomly and then amputates an arm and a leg in order to set an example for all of the rhythm that is expected of us. Colonization is the act of stealing and destroying our destinies and by deciding for us.
Colonization for us is the spirit of permanent war of interests beyond our control, all located in the West. For us, the settlement is a perverted system that condemns us for centuries. Using this word, as your secretary of state did, brings back sad memories and pushes us towards the complete rejection of the West in Africa.
The relationship between the West and Africa is like forced love – rape. China in Africa is like love between consenting adults. And, as in any relationship, there are ups and downs. There is always the desire to take over the other, but it is always more acceptable than rape.
Colonization is the act of stealing and destroying our destinies and by deciding for us.
2. Please, Mr. President, do not teach us hatred of the Chinese, especially during very tense moments at the international level. Africa needs investments, large investments. You do not want us to diversify our partners based on our interests for once. Concede to us, Mr. President, our rights to choose our friends. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and we do not want to live in a permanent Cold War context where you must always have an enemy. Mr. President, what are you waiting for – to dissolve this outdated box that is NATO?
With the use of force, everything can be destroyed as in Iraq, but what is difficult is finding the solution. NATO is an anachronism in the 21st century.
The relationship between the West and Africa is like forced love – rape. China in Africa is like love between consenting adults.
3. China is the only country with a consistent, real monetary reserve. At the level of public debt, the Chinese are helping the U.S. to the tune of $1,440 billion by purchasing your treasury bills and Africa only $90 billion. If someone was colonized, it’s you and not us.
As it stands, you behave as if you have even a dollar to help anyone in Africa. This is not true. According to information provided by the EDF (European Development Fund), June, 13, 2011, on U.S. private debt, on top of a public debt of $14,000 billion, there is $14,000 billion of household debt, an $11,000 billion debt of non-financial companies and $14,000 billion in debt of financial institutions in your country.
At the level of public debt, the Chinese are helping the U.S. to the tune of $1,440 billion by purchasing your treasury bills and Africa only $90 billion. If someone was colonized, it’s you and not us.
A total of $53 trillion U.S. in debt is chilling because it is the autopsy of a country that is driving straight into a wall, and not even China can save you. Worse of all, you seem not to appreciate the magnitude of your debt, to the point of triggering wars so lightly.
We are in a system known as “zero-sum development” – that is to say, when your country’s economy was going well, the others were starving. And now that we have woken up and that our economies are doing well – yours can only collapse. And it will not be your wars that change that.
4. Instead, let’s discuss the debate that China offers us: The development of Africa will be a consequence of the democratization of society, as has always been advocated by the West, or its development may precede the democratization of society, as suggested to us by China, with some success.
A total of $53 trillion U.S. in debt is chilling because it is the autopsy of a country that is driving straight into a wall, and not even China can save you.
Your system does not work anymore, even at home, or at least not with us. After 50 years of pseudo-independence, your idea of democracy in Africa is that of an Africa where the vote would be valid only if it pleases. And when you do not like it, we know the result – your bombs come to correct the popular vote, like in Ivory Coast.
Five hundred years of your “democracy” in Africa – that is enough. We want to try something else. And with only a 10-year-old relationship with a country that you describe as dictatorial, China, Africa has never been so well rewarded.
5. For seven months, China has been trying to get rid of your good treasure that they now see to be toxic financial products because they are convinced that they will not have all of their investment back, which is up to $9.2 billion per month. These figures are provided by your finance department. Of course, Mr. President, when it comes to you and the West, you talk about business once you leave the Northern Hemisphere to go to the Southern Hemisphere. You are crying wolf. Beware of the Chinese villains who are coming – they will swallow all of you.
No, Mr. President, Africans have opened their eyes and are beginning to look around them – probably not completely, otherwise you would never have obtained three African votes to enable you to attack one of their own – but one thing is for sure: They are half-awake and beginning to distinguish the forms. They can now describe the differences between the Chinese and the Westerners. And, for good reason, Africa has never been a world of domination, possession and submission. We will never know worse.
6. In all the talk of Western capital, we are constantly reminded explicitly and implicitly as Africans the distrust we need to show towards the Chinese. It has become almost an obsession. To hear this today from the West is suspect for one simple reason: Our ancestors trusted you and found themselves being deported. Our grandparents trusted you and found themselves under the yoke of colonization. Our parents trusted you and you gave us famine. More recently, three African countries, Nigeria, Gabon and South Africa, trusted you and voted with you on Resolution 1973 to protect Benghazi and you proceeded in bombing Tripoli.
And now you wish to point out our enemy?
The agreement countersigned by Britain stated that the latter would be responsible for compensating white farmers who were all British nationals. Twenty years later: nothing. Worse still, the victims of your broken promises quickly became the villains of the moment. And here we go with your blackmail: embargo, visa denial, accounts seizure. And as a diversion, as usual, you sang the chorus of Mugabe, the wild wolf. And with one voice, the West repeated the chorus with you believing that his longevity in power was more serious than the injustice that you have created.
In Ivory Coast, President Gbagbo heeded your advice and took away contracts from the Chinese, giving them to French companies without a call to tender. As we know, the rest is history.
What do the words of a senior American leader mean today? NOTHING. Nothing at all.
On Sept. 6, 2008, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during her visit to Libya, which she defined historic – 55 years since her predecessor and 51 years since any high ranking American official was in Libya, the last being Nixon in 1957 as vice president – told the press: “I think this visit shows that the United States has no permanent enemies and when countries are prepared to make strategic changes of direction, the United States is prepared to respond.”
The spokesman for the State Department, Sean McCormack, added – for the attention of Iran and North Korea: “Libya is an example showing that countries that make different choices from what they are now may have different relationships with the United States and the rest of the world. And we will keep our promises.”
In your opinion, did your predecessor, George Bush, and Mrs. Rice make errors of judgment in convincing Libya for six years, 2001 to 2006, to get rid of a whole series of dangerous weapons in exchange for the promise that this country would never be attacked? Or is it you who has overlooked the commitments of your predecessors?
No, Mr. President! I apply the principle so dear to the Republican, Abraham Lincoln: “What I want to know first of all, is not whether you failed, but if you were able to accept your failure.” President Bush accepted the failure of U.S. policy in isolating Libya since 1981 and decided to change course, with great difficulty, and the success of the initiative is, to his credit, the restoration of diplomatic relations in 2004.
Thus, while Libya’s guilt was never established, your predecessor has managed to gain acceptance to compensate all of the families of the Lockerbie victims and coffee in Berlin, but also, they agreed to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. This opened the files of their secret services to help the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, putting at risk their own territory and their own people against possible reprisals.
In any country, Mr. President, even the most primitive, it is known that when you have paid your debt to society, that chapter is closed. This is what President Bush wanted to demonstrate by closing this dark chapter with Libya with the official visit.
Mr. President, as you said in the China Daily, your country is still convalescing and emerging from a financial crisis which is not over and has no financial means to support a long war, as evidenced by the numerous defections of your allies: Norway informed you on May 9 that it would not have money to continue a war beyond June 24, Italy requested an end to the bombing because “they do not know where to find 40 billion euros in the short term to avoid descending into crisis like Greece” etc.
Accepting this defeat, rather than continuing this futile rush to get revenge on harmless civilians by dropping your bombs at random every day, without knowing exactly where this is heading to, will be to your credit.
Mr. Obama, is it too much to plead for you to at least listen to the voices of your elected representatives who, on June 24, 2011, with the voices of 70 of your own elected Democrats, asked you to stop your war in Libya?
Is it asking too much to ask you to take care of Americans, who voted for you, to find work and leave us in peace in Africa to choose our destiny ourselves and to even make and learn from our mistakes? Is it asking too much to ask you to release President Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast who has committed a single fault – his lack of obedience to the system that has oppressed us for 500 years?
Mr. President, the world has changed. The world has gone digital, but you still seem to view Africa on film in black and white. Despite all the hurdles imposed by your system of skewed rules, Africa has an average growth rate of 6 percent per year.
We are only at the beginning of our own industrial revolution and the raw materials which so attract you are designed to meet our own consumption needs, because unlike our parents and ourselves, our children do not want to live in deprivation regardless of living in Niamey or Pretoria. They also want to live in the same comfort as those in Los Angeles or Paris. They also want to have fun and to satisfy the exponentially exploding consumption. To do that we need our own raw materials.
Is it asking too much to ask you to take care of Americans, who voted for you, to find work and leave us in peace in Africa?
We are already asking ourselves the question of how to garner resources and raw materials to meet the needs of this new refined African population. I advise you to change your policy, get your people to reduce their consumption and adapt to resource availability in your possession so that you will not need to live in a permanent war with humanity.
I am looking forward to reading your response. Accept, Mr. President of the United States of America, the assurances of my highest esteem. I take this opportunity to wish you good luck for your re-election in 2012.
I advise you to change your policy, get your people to reduce their consumption and adapt to resource availability in your possession so that you will not need to live in a permanent war with humanity.
Jean-Paul Pougala is a Cameroonian author and director of the Institute of Geo-Strategic Studies and professor of sociology and geo-politics at Geneva School of Diplomacy, Switzerland. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and website is www.pougala.org. Sarli Sardou Nana is a U.K. based observer and commentator on current affairs.