Kenyan scholar and renowned historian, Prof. Ali Mazrui, has said US President Obama’s decision of making Ghana his country of choice on his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa is highly defensible. That, he said, was in view of the country’s ability to hold peaceful elections, the practice of good governance and the entrenchment of the tenets of democracy.
Apart from those, he said, prominent Ghanaians such as the first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah and the immediate past United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, played key roles both on the continent and the world at large. Prof. Mazuri made the remarks during a special edition of the BBC Africa Have Your Say programme after the US President Barack Obama delivered his speech to Parliament during his visit to Ghana. He said although he expected the President to emphasise some of the things he said, “it was still an important speech to be regarded as historic”. “It was a speech of tough love for Africa, on one side telling us what needs to be done to improve our conditions on the continent and on the other reminding us of our potentials,” he said.
Prof. Mazuri, who is one of Africa’s most internationally respected historians, said he was particularly struck by President Obama’s comments that the world would not only be changed by Washington in the years ahead but also by Africa.He said Obama’s interpretations of the interconnections between countries and societies was something often overlooked, but his articulation of it was quite impressive because the world had been changed since 1957 when Ghana won its independence. “Ghana’s struggle for independence helped to change the rest of Africa and the world,” he said, adding that when Ghana produced Kwame Nkrumah and Kofi Annan, those individuals emerging from a small country had themselves played an important role in world affairs.
Prof. Mazrui said Obama identifying himself as an African made his message stronger, and that going across to the generations of his family to his grandfather’s predicament during the colonial period, as well as his father, was a good ideal as it established what he (Obama) called in American politics, empathy. “It’s a word he uses quite often internally in the US. And in establishing his African credentials, he did build the kind of empathy with his African audience,” he emphasised, pointing out that Obama’s making known his African descent early in his speech was a way of establishing his personal credential and not just the credential of a President or a major figure from the US. He said if Kenyans had behaved well electorally in their 2007 elections, Obama would have found it difficult to visit any other African country than Kenya in sub-Saharan Africa. “He rightly looked around for some other country and Ghana was indeed a very defensibly choice,” he said.
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