RFI

The discreet part of Africa in Obama’s memories

An entire continent had celebrated the victory of one of his sons, during the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States in 2009. The first volume of his memoir as Head of State, “A Promised Land ( Fayard), however, confirms the anecdotal nature of Africa, in its universe as in its experience. From the start of his long story, more than 800 pages, Barack Obama mentions his father to say that he is “absent”, but includes a photo of him and his half-sisters in one of the photographic inserts that he himself captioned: “My father grew up in Kenya and studied economics at the University of Hawaii, where he met my mother, then at Harvard. After their divorce, he returned to live in Africa. Nothing more will be said about him. A few lines are devoted to his first 17-day African tour in August 2006, as a senator and possible candidate for the White House. After visiting Mandela’s cell in Cape Town and catching a glimpse of Desmond Tutu, who heckles him by asking him if he will be the “first African president of the United States,” he flies to Nairobi. He is given a “delirious welcome” in Kenya, but he is looking forward to getting out of “all this hustle and bustle” during a family break with “the wildebeest and lions in the wilderness” on a safari. He is racing through Somalia, Ethiopia and Chad, plagued by other questions. “At each of my stops, I saw men and women working with heroism under appalling circumstances. At every step I was told I was told that America could have done much more to help alleviate the suffering of these populations. And, every step of the way, I wondered if I was a presidential candidate. ” “Son of a black African with a Muslim name” No mention is made of African issues, despite the growing terrorist threat on the continent, when he reconsiders his decision to hand over foreign affairs to Hillary Clinton. It was above all the presence of 180,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that concerned him then, and the start of their withdrawal. Moreover, “in February 2009, it is the economy which obsessed me, not the politics”, he writes, because of the international financial crisis. In the passages on his foreign policy, he still quotes Kenya, but to talk about the United States. “When I first visited Kenya, family members I met told me how much they admired American democracy and the rule of law – which were in contrast, they told me. said, with the tribalism and corruption that plagued their country ”. He also recalls, between the lines, how American diplomacy remains linked to domestic political issues, returning to the criticisms of which he is the target at home. He knows he is perceived by his detractors as the “son of a black African with a Muslim name and socialist ideas installed in the White House, against which they wanted to be defended.” Jacob Zuma “quite pleasant” In a chapter entitled “The noble fight”, he paints the picture of his relations with world leaders in 2010. He scratches Nicolas Sarkozy, but also the President of Brazil Lula, who seems to him “unconvincing “. “He was said to be as scrupulous as a New York boss from the heyday of Tammany Hall’s shenanigans, and rumors were circulating about the government of cronyism, convenience deals and bribes. of wine amounting to several billion. Barack Obama could have said the same for Jacob Zuma, who had just taken over in South Africa in May 2009. He then found it “quite pleasant” and even eloquent, even if “in the general opinion, a large part of the goodwill acquired thanks to Mandela’s heroic struggle was squandered because of corruption and incompetence on the part of the leaders of the world. ‘ANC, leaving a significant proportion of the black population still mired in poverty and despair.’ Arab Spring and intervention in Libya A tour of the Middle East takes him through Egypt, inspiring him to reflect on the glory of Nasser, and a portrait in counterpoint of Mubarak: “I remained on the impression that I would often have by meeting autocrats of a certain age: locked in their palaces, with the only contact with the outside world the obsequious officials with stern faces who surrounded them, they were unable to distinguish between their personal interests and those of their nation, their actions being motivated by the sole ambition of maintaining the tangled network of cronyism and commercial interests that kept them in power. He recounts the success of his famous speech at Cairo University on June 4, 2009 on human rights and democracy, and his feeling that “things are bound to blow up somewhere” in the Arab world. The ex-president returns to the end of his book on the Arab Spring of 2011, retracing on thirteen pages the events in Tunisia and Egypt, where he advises Mubarak to leave. When popular protest unleashes massive repression in Libya, he wonders about military intervention in a country that “did not represent a threat to us”, but where he describes Muammar Gaddafi as “a madman ready to slaughter its people.” “Why in Libya and not in Congo, for example, where a chain of conflicts had cost the lives of millions of civilians? Barack Obama weighs the pros and cons, “annoyed” at being “cornered by Sarkozy and Cameron”, who are proposing a no-fly zone over Libya – a “fucked up” plan he says. His roadmap, as president of the world’s leading power, can only prevail: the United States, in part because Susan Rice remains marked by international inaction in Rwanda in 1994, intervenes to prevent a massacre in Rwanda. Benghazi. Then NATO takes over with European and Arab allies. The sequel, Gaddafi’s death and its effects on Mali, does not appear in this book – which is no less fascinating. She is eclipsed by Bin Laden, killed on May 2, 2011 by American special forces.