US President-elect: the latest African saint
United States President-elect: the latest African saint
by Agustin Velloso
Until the election in the United States of November 4th last, hagiographers had identified 1000 saints born in Africa. First place is assigned to Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century. Bakhita, a Sudanese of Darfur, who received that name from slave traders and is better known as Josephine Margaret Afortunada (a translation of Bakhita) lived until the middle of the last century.
By their works they have become part of what the Catholic church calls "the Church Triumphant" which intercedes with God on humanity's behalf. The works of Augustine are well known and Bakhita is praised for these words: "If I were to meet again the slavers who abducted me and tortured me I would kneel and kiss their hands because if that had not happened I would not be a devout Christian now."
What happened on November 4th has given rise to a
series of miracles which, without doubt, will allow us to
refer to Barack Obama as the latest black saint. The first
miracle consists in that, without knowing the great good he
has done in Africa during his time as a Senator, the
communications media, and thus the great masses, have
already canonized him.
According to his press office, in his work "As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Barack Obama has fought to focus America's attention on the challenges facing Africa". Like elastic, his magnanimity stretches a long way, "He has also increased America's focus on the long term challenges of education, poverty reduction, disease, strengthening democratic institutions and spurring sustainable economic development in Africa."
If some devil's advocate argues that these marvellous works already carried out are insufficient reason to elevate their author to an altar, then the project Obama announced during his presidential campaign leaves no room for doubt as regards Africa undying debt to him.
"Obama and Biden will expand prosperity by establishing an Add Value to Agriculture Initiative, creating a fund that will extend seed capital and technical assistance to small and medium enterprises...They will also strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act to ensure that African producers can access the U.S. market and will encourage more American companies to invest on the continent....Obama and Joe Biden will double our annual investment in foreign assistance from $25 billion in 2008 to $50 billion...They will fully fund debt cancellation for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries in order to provide sustainable debt relief and invest at least $50 billion by 2013 for the global fight against HIV/AIDS." And "As president, Obama will take immediate steps to end the genocide in Darfur..."
One cannot know for sure if Obama is thinking of Bakhita when he makes clear that the two measures he proposes with regard to Darfur are to deploy a strong intervention force in the area and to bring the Khartoum government to trial. However, the history of the United States indicates that this last proposal will end up being somewhat less Christian than the hand-kissing the former slave promised her former slavers.
When United States' Presidents deploy intervention forces in countries they consider enemies and persecute their governments and leaders, while kisses are scarce, by contrast there is an abundance of missiles, napalm, torture, destitution, depleted uranium - in a word, Apocalypse by human hand.
Since the Second World War, Democrat and Republican Presidents of the United States have ordered the bombing of 34 countries, among which figure African countries like Belgian Congo, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. However, the list of countries condemned by them is much longer if one talks about US weapons and military training used against Africans by diverse internal and external aggressors, whether in wars or in repression undertaken by dictatorial governments against their own citizens.
An awkward detail may perhaps deflate somewhat the illusion of all the millions of Africans who want to stick badges, medallions and scapulars featuring Obama on their breasts. It turns out that George Bush, still President, and likewise all his predecessors in that job, are equally deserving of this cult of devotion.
In effect, during his own presidential campaign Bush proposed the same as Obama: plenty of US aid to fight AIDS and malaria, reconstruction of countries devastated by genocide, schooling for the poorest children, guiding African countries to good government and agricultural autonomy, preferential treatment for impoverished countries in the World Trade Organization Doha round and a whole heap of similarly saintly good works.
Although Bush could not make his good works match his words about Africa, during his eight years of unrestricted power, in direct contact with God the Father, also omnipotent, Bush's kind heart is sufficient guarantee for some Africans who worship the country they consider "the oldest democracy, the most modernizing and solid on Earth, able to overcome political and social prejudices."
On February 26th this year, Bush, overcome with a spirit of goodness, declared, "America is on a mission of mercy. We're treating African leaders as equal partners..... This mission serves our moral interests -- we're all children of God, and having the power to save lives comes with the obligation to use it. ...Americans should feel proud, mighty proud, of the work we're doing in Africa. At every stop, I told people that the source of all these efforts is the generosity of the American people. We are a nation of compassionate and good-hearted folks."
Africans who remain alive despite US charity and compassion need not undress one saint so as to dress up another. If Bakhita pardoned her enemies with infinite sweetness, Obama has already done likewise to the military leaders whose armies and guerrillas have devastated the Democratic Republic of Congo (RDC) for the last few years.
He has not said a single word on the approximately five million dead in the RDC, the hundreds of thousands displaced, the women raped, the child soldiers and he has said even less on the responsibility of US multinationals in that infernal war. Obama has considered it more saintly to encourage entrepeneurs to invest in Africa.
Although right now some Africans look at their new saint ecstatically, many other Africans are dying just to increase profits for the US multinationals that carry off their raw materials: Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International (a subsidiary of Trinitech International), Kemet Electronics Corporation, OM Group and Vishay Sprague, among others, have all been identified by the United Nations for their role in the war in the RDC.
But the roughly 5 million dead do nothing to stain the second miracle, which consists in the fact that it is not just African-Americans in the United States and black people elsewhere pray for Obama. Even some who live under African dictatorships supported 100% by the United States government, praise the US and its President-elect, not for his good works, but for the colour of his skin.
The leaders of the Convergence for Social Democracy -CPDS, one of Equatorial Guinea's opposition parties-, in the name of "militants and sympathizers of the CPDS and likewise of the people of Equatorial Guinea in general" have congratulated Obama for his "victory of planetary reach". Surely bowled over by the celestial ecstasy induced by communication between two black souls dedicated to international politics beneath the gaze of the Almighty, Plácido Mico, the CPDS leader, wrote to Obama, "we ask God Almighty to inspire and guide your actions in government leading the United States of America and to protect you for a long time."
Here then is the fourth miracle which consists in spiritually uniting Africans in a new negritude, a political one this time, that does not distinguish between oppressors and oppressed. The President of Equatorial Guinea and CPDS oppressor, Teodoro Obiang, sent this message to Obama on November 5th: "The whole people of Equatorial Guinea, my government in general and myself personally... express to you our most sincere, warm and effusive congratulations for such a singular and historic achievement... A hope for complete change, political, social and economic renewal for all. So therefore we wish your Excellency the best achievements, successes and prayers for your personal health and that of your august family."
Senator Obama is not known to have criticised perennial United States policy in Equatorial Guinea, nor to have announced measures against the dictatorship of Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, like the ones to be employed in Darfur. One has here an extraordinary case in contemporary history of the Sacred: a miracle that multiplies like the bread and fishes. Alongside Saint Obama appear simultaneously thousands of other Holy Innocents. All of them approve the line marked out by big capital and its propaganda media - the change of a black face for a white face to replace the exhausted figure of George Bush.
Obama collected US$640 million dollars for his campaign. That money did not come from women and children affected by AIDS in Uganda, or the war mutilated of Angola, from impoverished farmers in Chad or Niger. Nor did it come from homeless people in New Orleans, or black people in US prisons, proportionately six times more numerous than white prisoners.
That money came from Wall Street, from big banks and multinational companies like Goldman Sachs, J.P.Morgan Chase, Citigroup, IBM, Microsoft and Google. Exxon-Mobil is the oil company with most presence in Equatorial Guinea, one of the most powerful companies in the world. Its supportive relations with Teodoro Obiang perpetuate the people of Equatorial Guinea's martyrdom.
Other black people have already held positions of high authority in the US. Colin Powell of the Episcopalian-Anglican Church, once a Republican, now a Democrat, is someone forever loyal to the empire. Condoleezza Rice is a member of the Presbyterian Church. She defines herself as a "moderate Republican".
Obama does not renounce these predecessors, nor their works, nor their allure. He simply reformulates them. If one asks what makes them different to Bush, the answer seems to be very little at all, except their skin colour? On that basis, the only change one can expect is to see all these black United States saints placed up on the altars, ensuring that at least there are black saints up there to be revered, just like the white ones.
Original in Spanish:
Translation by Tortilla con Sal