Winds of Change Beckon

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Kae on Friday

Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

AT last it has happened! What many, especially Africans, have been waiting for with bated breath. Hilary Clinton has at last bowed out, albeit reluctantly, after giving Barack Obama an arduous and bruising marathon.

After this marathon in which Obama has obviously been severely battered, the real business is now only beginning. This is the business of America showing the world that it is ready for a black president.

This is the utmost question that the whole wide world has been asking. I am sure most of us would jump to conclusions guided by the just-wound down Democratic Party experience and the ascendancy of Obama as its presidential candidate.

But the Democratic Party exercise has only given us a preliminary and one-sided insight into American politics. I am by no means convinced to what extent the Democratic Party spectacle can be a foretaste and forerunner to what may play itself out on the wider American political terrain.

Yes, the question, and rightly so, has been whether America is ready for a woman and a black president? The Democratic Party may have told and shown the world by nominating Obama as its presidential candidate, that it is ready for both a woman and a black as American president. Still this depends on how much one makes of, sees and reads into this nomination.

The question whether America is ready for a woman or black as president is not as innocent as it may sound. Hidden in it is the reality that the order that rules the world, as much claim as it may lay to being colour blind, is still a class order in which the white men comes first, followed by white women. This is the order the Democratic Party candidate nomination spectre that has just played itself out is making us believe is on the mend.

I am cautious to excitedly buy into this pretence at change until I see this playing itself out and testing itself on the real playing field, the American presidential polls in November.

The contest unfolding now in America leading up to November when this country goes to the presidential polls, is an interesting one in that it pits a man against a man, albeit a black man against a white one or vice versa.

In this scenario the change in world order seems to have taken more in the Democratic Party, and nearly extremely so in that a black man is now the Democratic Party presidential candidate.

Nearly extremely so, because it stopped short of nominating a black woman candidate. Had that happened, that would have been a record for the Democratic Party in terms of completely overhauling the world-class order, albeit as transitory as this happening could be. But still the question remains to what extent what has just transpired within the Democratic Party can be replicated on the broader American political scene?

I would have been convinced if at least within the Republican Party there was some reciprocal shift either towards a woman or black candidate. Had this transpired then it would have had some measure of belief that somehow the wind of change is blowing within the American political system. An old saying goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating”.

This eating as far as the movement towards a black American president is concerned, is not the Democratic Party presidential nomination we have just witnessed, nor can this be taken without circumspection as a sign of what we may expect in November.

Obama must now brace and brave himself to test what the real meaning of what just transpired within the Democratic Party, is to America. To what extent his ascendancy within the Democratic Party is predictive and perspective of an inclination, or beginning of an inclination within the American political system towards a black president.

Yes, all of us as Africans (on the continent and in the Diaspora, including Afro-Americans) are imbued and desirous of the Martin Luther King Jnr’s 1960s dream of seeing the mountain top. Is Obama the epitome of this dream of the mountain top?

As much as I would wish him to be for purely sentimental and Pan-African ideological reasons, I don’t want to engage in self-deceit that America is somehow changing. Because the American dream that is so much talked about is a different dream from King Jnr’s dream of seeing the mountain top.

As far as I am concerned, Obama is standing at the foot of the mountain. Now he needs to climb it and a lot is entailed in this climb to the summit. Climbing a mountain, as all of us may be aware, has its hazards.

Neither do I want to hoodwink myself that wonders may be coming from his presidency. Yes, it is a good feeling to have a black running the power of the world but I don’t want to elude myself that Obama may be running America on behalf of Africa. This is as much as he may not be running America for the Afro-Americans, most wretched right in the American backyard.

First and foremost he would be running America for the Americans of which Afro-Americans are a fraction. I think as Africans we must look at the experience of other Africans who have been in position of power in international institutions. I can of recent only think Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali of Egypt and after him, Kofi Annan of Ghana, both former secretary-generals of the United Nations.

As much as I cannot claim that there is nothing that they did for Africa while at the helm of this organisation, I can equally not credit them with having done wonders for Africa. This is not because they did not have the passion for Africa but because by its nature the UN is not an African organisation but a world one with competing interests. Therein lay the limit within which the two Africans operated.

Likewise, America has its own competing interests, internally and externally, and I am not quite sure where about on this scale of competing interests, African interests are deposited. Yes, Obama as an African might have empathy to African interests but he would need more than just empathy to manoeuvre such interests passed and over other competing interests.

But as of now, he must first convince America at the polls of the need to change the world-class order so that blacks like him can start to rule. This is by no means an easy task.

If he does, let it be but there should be no illusions.

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