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Opinions of Friday, 10 July 2009

Columnist: Hamah, Victoria Lakshmi

Oil, Arms And Race: Obama’s Vist

-- The Complexities And Implications

By: Victoria Lakshmi Hamah


The Ghanaian press has deliberately ignored the vital significance of the visit of US President Barrack Obama. The narrow diversionary, almost trivial emphasis on democracy, rule of law, HIV/AIDS and malaria is gradually revealing a crisis of intellectual honesty and public rationality.

The opposition has stated that the visit of Barrack Obama, the third US President to visit the country- as a reward for 16 years of democratic practice, stability and whatever all that means. It is less than a year since the unpopular visit of George Bush, Jnr and there is no instigation to enquire the extra-ordinary interest in Ghana. The government has not stated anything different; Parliament is not likely to be informed on the full implications and aims of the visit of the US President, how more ordinary citizens!

Civil society has not yet issued any critical commentary or active mobilization of opinions and concerns on the visit, apart from reports on plans of hysteric and opportunist fanfare welcome by so-called Pan-African organizations. There has been a recent public agitation over the visit. It was not like one of the CJA inspired demonstrations. In Elmina there are public protests over the choice of Cape Coast castle over Elmina Castle—both scions of the trans-Atlantic slave trade—for visit by the first couple of the US.

If the visit of Bill Clinton to Accra was met by thick crowds then we would not be able to estimate the response to Obama. Obama is not just the first Afro-American US President, but a man who has become an epitome of ‘CHANGE’ and an embodiment of the hopes and aspirations of millions globally.

In India last year, thousands of poor villagers shocked the world when they donated a gold-plated statue of Hindu Deity Sri Hanuman to Obama in expression of their support. Obama during his campaign and after has been met by enthusiastic crowds in Europe and all over the world.

During the last elections, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) printed Obama’s face on t-shirts side by side that of Atta-Mills, apparently to boost its campaign. Then Vice-Presidential Candidate John Mahama enjoyed being referred to as John ‘Obama’.

Kenya is ruled by a man whose mandate is in serious question after elections marked by fraud and violence. Mwai Kibaki last year declared a one day holiday for the election of another leader (Obama) thousands of miles away. The Kenyan elite are not very happy that Obama chose Ghana for his first African visit. Nigerian leaders have in some way expressed similarly sentiment.

Obama is no doubt a sensation. But the heroism, sensation and public appeal has overshadowed the real character and direction of Obama and the content of the ‘change’ he promised.

African client states and perhaps its citizens have very unrealistic expectations of Obama. But they certainly have a right to expect a departure from the Bush era.


Libyan leader Muamar Qathafi has remarked that Obama, ironically because of his multi-ethnic identity and background will be under very great pressure to move right in all his policies and positions on foreign affairs. Anyone you suggest to that Obama is worse off than Bush will probably think you are joking. Obama has the popularity that allows him to make statements that Bush or any other American President would not dare.

The grandson of a Muslim faithful, Barrack Obama, went against world opinion and the United Nations when he proclaimed that Jerusalem is the legitimate capital of the state of Israel and the Jewish nation. He got away with that and still enjoys the support of the Muslim world.

At the lowest point of US public finances and economic recession, renewed political and military competition with Russia, the economic revolution in China, Brazil and India; the capture of strategic resources by revolutionary states in Latin America, Obama will be under pressure to reinforce America’s military superiority globally. Already the Russian humiliation of the Shakavelli led Georgia has shown decisively the obsoleteness and unresponsiveness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Obama’s doubtful pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq is informed precisely by the need to increase US military presence in Afghanistan and probably Pakistan. The destabilization of western Asia caused by Bush will certainly not change under Obama. There is no need to talk of his earlier reckless threat to bomb Iran.

With the fluctuation of oil-prices by Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the rise of an industrial China hungry for the oil and mineral wealth of Africa there will be the need for the United States perhaps more than ever in its history to rely on its military superiority particularly in Africa.


Last year, in Accra, President Bush evaded the question of the establishment of a US military base in Ghana put him by Kwesi Pratt Jnr, editor of an Accra leftwing newspaper—the Insight—with the derogatory ‘baloney’ retort. Available evidence supports the fact that George Bush visited Ghana with a proposal to make the country host the Headquarters of the Africa Command Division of the United States Army. The crisis with United States militarism has been particularly aggravated by the lost of US prestige. Only few people in the world today can stand up to defend the necessity and lawfulness of the conquest and plunder of Iraq; and even fewer can have the courage to tout the garbage that the United States is the standard bearer of civil liberties after the revelations of the horror and savagery from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The United States despite the resurgence of Russian military might and the change in global security architecture, remains the country with the most technologically advance military. But that will not be enough. San Tzu, ancient Chinese thinker wrote that “the greatest art of war is deception”.

From all areas were the US requires support for its military and foreign policy ends Obama seems to be the right face of American interest. He has African and Muslim origin making him the most convenient character for the myth of change in US foreign policy in Africa, Middle East and Western Asia. Africa is the new battle ground for Europe, China, and the US. That is why Obama is in Ghana to establish US military presence that will secure Ghanaian and African resources for US interest. It is estimated that by 2015 the US will be dependent on Africa for 50% of all its oil imports. Ghana has not only found oil but also has the stable political conditions to be the chief-host of US military presence. US Military Cooperation

Already Ghana is implementing several forms of military cooperation deals with the United States. Most of these are often disguised as technical cooperation agreements and joint training activities-- critical commentators have expressed fears it is only meant to indoctrinate Ghanaian military officers and infiltrate the Ghana’s security apparatus.

Ghana along with nineteen other African countries is involved in the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) and the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS), all part of the National Defence University in Washington for the training of African military officers.

Ghana has already agreed to the U.S. Navy Maritime Partnership Program which is in line with the Trans Africa militaries in ports and off shore, to provide oil platform security.

The basic goal of US military programmes is to provide for the security of the local political elite and economic hit men and to insulate them from the social consequences of their economic decisions. Its orientation of African military officers will also ensure that there will be no possible rise of nationalist governments that will aim at the nationalization of oil and mineral production. A political elite isolated and insulated from the prevailing social conditions will have no incentive to protect even the existing semblance of democratic culture. The rise of patronage politics and sectarian outlook will mirror a situation of hopelessness where social opportunities are so limited that the great mass of the people have to be dependent on very narrow layer of society. The rise to public power by politicians will depend on US money and intelligence activity than on the existing limited form of popular consent.

It is important to note that US military and intelligence presence in any part of the world has created and re-enforced the most tyrannical and corrupt regimes of the world. In Africa we know of at least Bokasa, Mmobotu . But it is important not to forget our own history with the United States of America. History and the Present

Forty three years ago the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US financed and coordinated the bloody overthrow of the Government of Kwame Nkrumah. Declassified CIA documents establish the fact that the CIA hired Ghanaian military and police officers to carry out the 24 Feb 1966 bloody overthrow of Nkrumah. Analysis of the CIA documents also reveals the incredible: Nkrumah’s head had a price tag!

Before then Nkrumah had maintained strong ties with the US and allowed the American Peace Corps into the country. In trying relating to the US Atta Mills must not take label to mean content and should access the real implications of the Obama visit. The cold war conditions that provided Nkrumah with development options also exist today. Yokohama’s end of history theory published after the collapse of the ‘iron curtain’ is itself now history. Islam is new world force. Russia is back! China is reaching to the skies!! The world stage now looks like a multi-polar world.

President Atta Mills has the obligation to defend Ghana’s sovereignty and independence. After all the US is broke; Ghana can depend on the assistance of other rising powers in the short term to stabilize the economy alongside building the conditions for self reliance both in production capacity and markets in the context of south-south cooperation. In dealing with America we should go beyond the handsome Negro face of the young Harvard graduate; we should analyze within the context of the existing global balance of power and western credit crunch the foreign policy aims of a desperate world power.

--The Author is a former student leader and leading activist of the Progressive Movement for Change, a network of youth activists.

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