It may be just a coincidence that the United States of America is getting sucked into African politics when it is being ruled by a president with Afro-American roots. When Barack Obama started his first innings, Somalia was virtually deleted from the map of the world, Sudan was in turmoil, but not yet divided into two, and Nigeria had been in the news for the Christian-Muslim conflict. Rwanda was still simmering after the genocide against the Tutsi minority years ago and Liberia had got rid of Charles Taylor, the president of ‘American’ origin, in 2003. This man— a descendent of the Blacks who returned from the US to re-settle in Liberia in the 19th century — had been involved in heinous crimes during his six-year rule. Though several millions perished in these bloodbaths and other social strife elsewhere in the continent, they received scant coverage in the global media.
But in the last four years, Africa has started making big news for reasons both right and wrong. Hours after Obama took oath for the second term on January 21, American air force planes were transporting personnel and material for French troops in Mali. Some Americans were among the foreigners who had been taken hostage and then killed in Algeria. The Benghazi killing of the ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, continues to haunt Hillary Clinton, who has passed the baton on to John Kerry.
A couple of years ago, Tunisia witnessed an upheaval and the Arab Spring has brought change to Egypt. Muammar Gaddafi was literally hunted down and killed. All these events have hogged the limelight in the international media as they took place in ‘happening’ zones.
Western, central and southern Africa are facing another type of blood-letting but the news of European interventions has seldom hit global headlines so strongly. In this second largest continent, Muslims, Christians and various tribes are fighting one another or among themselves. Chad, Congo, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Gambia, there is unrest everywhere. Consequently, lakhs of people are dying every year.
Even as Africans witness a sort of ethnic cleansing, Obama has made another kind of history. But Obama is an Afro-American of a different stock. While most Blacks in the US are the progeny of slaves brought by the European traders from western or central Africa, the father of the present US president hailed from a relatively well-off family in Kenya. He went to the US on his own and married a White woman. True, he has his roots in Africa, but in a part of the continent which had more Arab influence. Thus, he is somewhat different from those who were brought to the Americas years ago.
The problem with Africa is that it is rich but situated too close to Europe. But the continent has also had a historical link with the US. Other formidable powers like the erstwhile Soviet Union and China are geographically far removed from the continent. This has given Western powers an opportunity to exploit the continent. Unlike in southeast Asia where there is a balance of power between the US and China, there is no one to checkmate the West here. This despite the fact that China has expanded its trade relationship with some African nations.
The Western powers would support any titular head of their choice and remove those who defied them. They may send their forces in the guise of peacekeepers in a war-torn nation. But the basic objective is to strengthen their own ties for economic reasons. Earlier, they would intervene to save nations from the communists. Now al Qaida has provided them an opportunity to rush troops to these nations.