President Obama's Visit And Africa's Second Uhuru

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[Open Letter To President Obama]

Dear Mr. President,

Your trip to Africa this week presents a legacy-defining opportunity.

President George W. Bush is remembered for the billions of dollars he made available to fight HIV/Aids; a program which has continued under your administration.

Bill Clinton, while decried for allowing genocide in Rwanda, is also hailed for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the preferential trade deal that allows some duty free exports from participating African countries to the U.S.; this program was also recently renewed by Congress under your administration.

Mr. President, you initiated the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit which can become a transformative forum for increased business interaction and trade between the U.S. and Africa; and through the Young African Leaders Initiative, you've provided fellowship opportunities that brings 500 young Africans to study in the U.S.

Mr. President, you can even help Africans with something much more enduring; which is to win their second independence or Uhuru. You can do so by committing the U.S. to ending its support to African autocrats.

Africa's first liberation was from European colonial oppression and exploitation.

The second struggle, which many Africans have been engaged in since the end of colonial regimes, is freedom from the tyranny of many of their rulers, some of whom are supported by the United States.

Mr. President, you were spot on in 2009 when you spoke about the need for accountable governance in Africa.

Addressing the entire continent from the floor of Ghana's Parliament, in Accra, you said the days of "big men," or dictators, in Africa were over. You said the continent needed enduring institutions of democratic governance that would allow a young generation of Africans to emerge and "unlock Africa's potential."

You said countries that thrived best were the ones whose citizens were "governed by consent and not coercion." You deplored leaders who changed constitutions to perpetuate their regimes. Autocracy and lack of accountability promotes corruption including: embezzlement of billions of dollars in state resources; and the degradation of institutions of governance, law and order, such as the courts and the police forces.

Mr. President I was one of the millions of Africans and friends of Africa around the world elated by your words.

Yet the rhetoric has often not been matched by the reality in terms of U.S. actions.

For too long, many African countries have not been able to benefit from the continent's vast resources because they have not been allowed to function normally by the ruling elite.

A young African student generally can't hope to attend school, apply herself or himself diligently, eventually graduate, and then secure decent employment and raise a family.

This is because, in far too many countries, the individual autocrats are in essence the state itself.

Rather than merit-based rewards, benefits are dished out based on the whims of, and loyalty to, a dictator, his relatives, and the inner ruling-circle. Under such circumstances, corruption becomes the way of life; not an abnormality.

Take a country like Uganda, where it's dictator of the last 30 years, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, has to sign off on almost everything. This ranges from massive expenditures such as the purchase of multi-million dollar jets for his airforce or the $48 million Gulfstream V jet he purchased for his personal use in 2009, to, personally awarding scholarships to Ugandans to study overseas. Gen. Museveni insists that scholarship recipients come from Western Uganda, where he hails from.

Gen. Museveni runs Uganda like a personal family estate much like how King Leopold II of the Belgians once operated the Congo; with no accountability whatsoever.

He tolerates no opposition; recently, he arrested the country's best known pro-democracy leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye before he could address a rally of his supporters. He also arrested Amama Mbabazi, who until last year was his own prime minister. Mbabazi was fired when he indicated he would run against his boss in elections scheduled for next year. Mbabazi has been barred from even "aspiring" for the presidency and addressing supporters.


For the rest of the article please see HuffingtonPost 



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