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President Obama’s Diplomatic Style Toward Africa: Putting The Future Of Africa In The Hands Of Africans

2555 words - 11 pages

The world was watching as the son of an African settled into his position in the oval office. And it did not take long for the world to find reason to be disappointed. Within the first year of his presidency journalists in Africa, Europe, and the U.S. were reporting on his lack of involvement with Africa. Comparisons between Bush and Obama were focused on foreign assistance and the HIV/AIDS relief program. Many were wondering why there was no ground breaking initiative from Washington to Africa and these questions have turned to abandon in his second term. "It would not be wrong to say that George W. Bush probably did more for this continent. There's a growing realization that Obama has no desire to be some kind of savior for Africa, despite some people expecting him to be when he came to office." said Steven Friedman, a senior academic specializing in democracy studies at the University of Johannesburg. Some have accused Obama of merely visiting Africa in 2013 out of guilt. Others have assumed that he is trying to avoid favoring the region. The overall consensus is that the policies and lack of policies that Obama is adopting are exposing him to the accusation that he has done little for the continent. But all of this criticism may be missing the mark on Obama’s diplomatic style. This paper aims to examine why Obama is choosing to be less influential rather than assuming that he is simply overlooking the continent. According to Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan human rights activist, "Obama will always be a role model, especially for our young people who very much look up to him in a place where we're very short of good role models," she said. "He is almost hands-off, which has been criticized as doing nothing. But in fact it allows us the space to search for our own solutions. He's right that it's up to Africans, not outsiders, to fix our problems."
This paper is providing evidence that it is his intimate connection with Kenya and with the African people that allows President Obama to take a different approach concerning the U.S. foreign policy toward Africa. There are many aspects of Obama’s style that are reminiscent of his predecessors and we see many initiatives and policies that Bush and Clinton enacted that Obama is in full support of. But there is a great deal of change in the presidential style when it comes to engagement with African nations, leaders, and citizens. Obama’s rhetoric has always had a sense of affection and trust for the African people. Like a parent or older sibling, he deeply understands that hovering is never as powerful as confidence and faith in a person’s ability to do the right thing and prosper. Obama is entrusting the future of Africa to Africans themselves and he expects them to fully own this responsibility. His statements from long before his presidency have shown this belief. In 2006 he told the Associated Press that, "Ultimately, a new generation of Africans have to recognize the...

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