US President Barack Obama concluded a historic visit to Africa on Tuesday, flying out of Addis Ababa shortly after making the first address to the African Union by a US leader. The visit is believed to have many implications for the future of US-African relations.
It was Obama’s third visit to Africa in his two terms as president. It was also the first time ever that a sitting US president visited Ethiopia.
Reconnecting with his African roots, Obama kicked off his visit in Kenya – the birthplace of his father –on Friday and later landed in Ethiopia.
Reassuring a continent facing numerous challenges, Obama said that America stands with Africa against terror in Nigeria, Somalia, and many other African countries.
During his visit, Obama highlighted that Africa’s progress relies heavily on diplomacy and development, and he criticised African leaders who refuse to step down.
During a phone interview with Ahram Online, Gamal Nkrumah, founder and director of the Pan-African Cultural Centre said that Obama prioritized visiting Kenya and Ethiopia due to the importance of their role in fighting terrorism, in addition to them being economic powers in Africa.
Prior to Obama’s visit, a group of Kenyan and international human rights organizations asked Obama to raise critical human rights issues during meetings with high-level officials.
Stating that no one should be president for life, Obama criticised African leaders who refuse to step down. Nkrumah agreed with the president’s statement, adding that unfortunately, many African leaders have been in power for too long.
Nkrumah added, however, that it is a sensitive issue for an outsider to tell others how to run their country, even if he is correct.
He also said that it is hypocritical that the US is dealing with states that are violating human rights while condemning them for the same matter.
“Obama will not be taken seriously in his warning to these African states because at the end of the day they know that he will continue dealing with them… he needs to keep having good relations with them,” Nkrumah asserted.
Terror threats are spread across the continent, from Somalia’s Shebab and Boko Haram in Nigeria to insurgents in Mali and Tunisia, and the Uganda-led Lord’s Resistance Army rebels in central Africa.
“The US no longer sends troops to areas of conflict. They make countries like Ethiopia and Kenya fight terrorists instead of sending their own troops directly and this is a change in American policy in general, not just in Africa,” Nakrumah said.
During the visit, Obama pledged continued training assistance and other support in the fight against terrorism and announced that he will host a summit at the United Nations in September to secure additional support for international peacekeeping, including in Africa.
AP reported that Obama highlighted his administration’s efforts to end hunger by visiting Faffa Food’s factory, a company that participates in the US Feed the Future program. The initiative focuses on helping smaller farmers in 19 countries, including Ethiopia and 11 other African nations, expand their businesses.
The president hailed the continent’s gains in reducing poverty and HIV/AIDS infection, while noting the US role in such gains, Voice of America reported.