Jul 23 2013

the peculiar politics of Mandela’s demise

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 3:03 PM

Nelson Mandela’s prolonged end-of-life experience carries a certain poetic resonance. Having had many years of freedom stolen by the apartheid government of South Africa, Mandela and his people want to extend his life in freedom for as long as possible. Fair enough. But Mandela’s peculiar medical limbo carries another possible reading: that Mandela’s political heirs are not yet ready to go forth without him alive.
The African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party of South Africa, has of course been rehearsing for Mandela’s departure ever since the great “Madiba” surrendered the presidency of South Africa after a single term in 1999. Yet the years of presence that Mandela has gifted his nation seem nonetheless to be insufficient foundation for an ANC whose legitimacy continues to rest almost solely on its “liberation” credentials. Governing South Africa has proved far more difficult than the transition from apartheid to majority rule. Perhaps the pedestrian character of ordinary life would always make the removal of oppressive white rule seem far more dramatic. Yet nearly 20 years into South Africa’s great experiment in democracy, only Nelson Mandela seems to have live up to anything near the enormous expecatations of South Africans and the world community.
The ANC, now led by the very earthly Jacob Zuma, has little time to get its act together before “saint” Mandela exits the stage for good. In lingering a bit longer on the material stage, is Mandela doing the ANC a final favor?

Jul 18 2013

Obama can better exploit the talents of Africans in America

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 8:12 PM

More than a million Americans claim sub-Saharan Africa as their place of birth. And yet the administration of President Barack Obama — the son of a Kenyan — shows scant awareness of the potential benefits of mobilizing American-Africans on behalf of positive change in the sub-Saharan. In a new essay, in the monthly political magazine In These Times, I analyze this and other missed opportunities in Obama’s studied approach to African affairs.
Africans in America remain strongly attracted to their countries of origin. A dozen years ago, so many migrants to the U.S. from Ghana wanted to retire in Ghana that a Texas home builder built hundreds of homes in Accra for them. And so on. My best Senegalese friend, who works in Chase bank as an executive, insists that his entire family watch TV from Dakara every night — in Woloff, his native language. Maintaining roots (homeland) and wings (integration into American society) are old hat in this country. A week ago, I had two Nigerian men over for dinner — and their pregnant wives, both of whom their husbands met by going on wife-hunting trips to Lagos. In many ways, Africans in America care deeply about both maintaining their roots in their new homes, but also preserving and promoting what’s best about where they came from.

Jul 03 2013

Obama in Africa: turning rhetoric into reality?

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 12:37 PM

Obama salvaged an awkwardly-timed visit to Tanzania and South Africa with a fresh call for U.S.-Africa relations to build around self-reliance and mutual benefit rather than humanitarian assistance and charity. But as I argue in a new essay in In These Times, Obama has militarized African affairs in many ways during his Presidency and he must somehow find a basis for addressing Africa beyond the prism of national security.