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Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem on Colin Powell's Maiden Visit To Africa


The maiden visit to Africa by Colin Powell, the US secretary of State is being packaged by the new Republican administration as evidence of its willingness to 'remain engaged in Africa' and the top priority that Africa is on its agenda. This is a repost to the Clinton administration's show (even if there was not much concrete evidence) of its commitment to Africa. The Republicans have remained suspect not just on their commitment to Africa but a willingness to be part of the global community of nations, a world that they believe, without any sense of irony, is 'America's manifest destiny' to lead in perpetuity. If they do not care much about the world they could care even less about Africa.

Since the Historical shift of Black Voters away from the Republican party to the Democrats, the party has become less and less sensitive to the interests of its citizens who are of African origin as it has of other ethnic, racial or political minorities (i.e. women). A party that is racist or at best apologetic, about racism and religious bigotry at home cannot be expected to be progressive on these issues abroad.

Bush's Republican Party of which Powell is a key member is even more right wing than his father's. By ideological lineage it is more a descendant of Ronald Regan's Gung-ho diplomacy without the finesse of Bush Senior. However we should not make too much distinction between Republicans and Democrats or different factions of them when it comes to the substance of America's relations with the rest of the world and Africa.

We can make a distinction in terms of emphasis, without substantial difference in terms of their over all goal of domination of the world. One slaps you and offers you a handkerchief (Democrats) and the other (Republicans) slaps you (and denies you even the right to shed tears) but the fact remains that they both will whack you! The unspoken but clear propaganda from Powell's appointment is the fact that he is Black. This serves both domestic and external interests of the Republicans and the American establishment very well. It is prove that they are not racist at all that they believe in merit and anybody (or even everybody) can and do make it in America.

If Powell, son of immigrant African-Caribbeans from Jamaica can rise to high office from the military to the civilian establishments, then anybody can do it. Therefore the majority of people of African origin for whom the American Dream is a daily nightmare, have themselves to blame. It will be naive for Africans to take these matters at face value. His African origin no withstanding General Colin Powell will not think twice to destroy Africa if the interests of America dictate so. His types are found in abundance within the American establishment and both political parties. They are not African-Americans but Americans first and foremost and Africans when the occasion demands. Therefore having Blacks, no matter how high up in the administration does not mean that African interests will be promoted.

WE should support any policy that promotes the full realization of the democratic rights of people of African origin in America and the removal of all-artificial barriers and ceilings imposed on their hopes and ambitions. However we should not make the mistake of mistaking that Domestic agenda with the guarantee of Africa's wider interests WE need to know what these interests are and build t he necessary international alliances for protecting them. They include: . The marginalisation of Africa from key global institutions that make decisions about our lives such as the IMF/World Bank, the World Trade organization and the UN Security Council . The extreme poverty faced by a majority of our peoples some of it due to domestic parasitic rulers, domination by Western multi national corporations and the historical process of our integration into global capitalism . The threat that globalisation poses for our survival as a people and the survival of the world as unelected and unelectable corporations destroy environment, reaping huge profits and wreaking havoc across the world. . The abuse of the UN system as instrument of US domination and 'power without responsibility.' All these issues put us and many people of the world, on collision course with USA as the dominant power in the World today.

We need to engage it and fight our corners without allowing sentimental reasons of the colours of the skin of the personnel of the administration to becloud our judgements. BY all means we should receive General Colin Powell with the traditional hospitality of Africa but be clear that our guest is not some prodigal son returning home but a loyal American establishment figure doing his bit for Pax Americana. As typical of Americans he will give us numerous lectures on Democratisation, liberalisation, peacekeeping, conflict resolution, fighting poverty with economic growth, HIV/AIDS and all subjects under the sun. The lectures need not be one way.

WE should be clear and firm and avoid any fudge in making our views clear. While we are at it we should, in the spirit of reciprocity, as k the Secretary o State a few questions: . If the US is so concerned about Africa why does it not demonstrate that commitment at home through its treatment of its population who are of African origin . Why are there more Black kids in prison or other judicial processes than there are in college? . Why are Blacks the majority population in prisons? . Why are Blacks over represented in Ghettos, projects and among beggars in the inner cities? . Why does the US claim global leadership without any thought about global responsibility? . Why is his administration throwing out any global agreement it does not agree with? . Why do they abuse the UN system and yet are not even paying their dues? . Why is the USA government reluctant to apologise fully for the evils and profits it made from slavery and the compensation demanded by the Reparations movement?

General Powell may not have immediate answers to some of these questions. Even if he does he may not have solutions for the way forward but he needs to know that his romantic image of his country shared with millions of his compatriots are in serious credibility deficit with how others see them.

His trip to Africa should provide him with a reality check.

Safari Njema to General Colin Powell.


Dr Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

General-Secretary, Pan African Movement

Monday, May 28, 2001

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