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Gay Rights On $2 a Day? Obama Loses Plot

By Finian Cunningham

July 28, 2015 "Information Clearing House" - "Sputnik" -  No-one can pretend that Kenya and Ethiopia are free from political defects. But the defects appear small in comparison to the challenges that these countries are facing and are largely overcoming for the greater good of their respective societies.

American sermonising on human rights has lost the plot in the new multipolar world, where US power is a shadow of its former self. The monstrous hypocrisy of the United States makes it a laughing stock, if its own crimes against humanity were not so vile.

There is a Pollyanna quality to US President Barack Obama urging African leaders to respect gay rights and same-sex marriage. Obama is rounding off a five-day tour of Kenya and Ethiopia in East Africa.

Ahead of his trip Western rights groups were urging the US president to get tough on the subject. But such Western concern is not only misplaced; it sounds like neocolonial arrogance run amok. Ironically, too, expressed by an African-American president.

Kenya and Ethiopia are claimed to be the fastest growing economies on the 54-nation African continent. Nevertheless, they are still among the poorest places on earth.

Ethiopia has a population of some 90 million, the second highest in Africa after Nigeria, and has recorded double-digit economic growth in recent years. The potential for Ethiopia and its southern neighbour Kenya is indeed huge. But for the majority of Ethiopians and Kenyans, life is a daily struggle to survive on an income of less than $2 a day.

In rural Ethiopia, where most of the population lives, children are commonly underweight from lack of nutrition. Farmers use wooden ploughs and oxen to plant their crops; and if the rains don't come on time the next season could bring calamitous food shortages.

So in this context of life-and-death existence, Obama's lecturing towards African leaders on upholding gay rights sounds trite and totally way off.

Sure enough, both Kenya and Ethiopia have had their relative economic success stories tarnished with criticism from Western-based rights groups. Homosexuality is banned in Kenya and the country's president Uhuru Kenyatta has angered gay rights activists by saying that for his nation the matter of gender identities is "a non-issue". Kenyatta defiantly reiterated his stance during a press conference held with Obama in the Kenyan capital Nairobi at the weekend. He pointed out that his country's top concern is meeting basic human development needs, and that the issue of gay rights, while possibly on the policy agenda sometime in the future, for now remains "a non-issue".

Meanwhile in Ethiopia, the government of Prime Minister Haile-Mariam Desalegn is accused of repressing freedom of speech and political opponents. Several imprisoned journalists were released only weeks before Obama's visit the first that any sitting US president has made to Ethiopia. Desalegn's ruling coalition government was recently re-elected after winning all 546 parliamentary seats. That pristine result has raised suspicions. Opposition parties claim that they were marginalised. However, in the run-up to the election all contesting parties were given ample media coverage on the national broadcasting channel to present their policies.

No-one can pretend that Kenya and Ethiopia are free from political defects. But the defects appear small in comparison to the challenges that these countries are facing and are largely overcoming for the greater good of their respective societies. Ethiopia, for one, is no longer mired in the death-dealing famines or viciously repressive military regime that once were its international image. Kenya's security forces have been implicated in violations, but these are in the context of an ongoing counterinsurgency war against Al Shabaab Jihadists on its eastern border with Somalia.

Obama's stated concern for gay rights while in Africa sounds like a Western leader who has lost touch with the more pressing reality in this part of the world. That reality includes ensuring basic needs of food security, clean drinking water, life-saving vaccination against from malaria, as well as providing general healthcare and education.

Obama's lecture on gay and other rights sounds decadent and frivolous.

But more than that, Obama and his American human rights bandwagon expose their supercilious arrogance towards other nations.

Think about this astounding hypocrisy. Obama appoints himself to pontificate to African leaders about "rights" when in his country heavily armed police forces routinely shoot dead unarmed civilians. So far this year, over 500 American civilians have been killed by US officers using lethal violence. That's nearly three victims per day.

Figures show that an African-American youth is 20 times more likely to be killed by police compared with a white youth. The same goes for imprisonment rates which are disproportionately sky-high for African-Americans.

And yet in all this murderous racial mayhem, very few American police officers, mostly white, are prosecuted or even lose their jobs. The judicial system and US politicians like Obama have shown pathetic dereliction in upholding equality and protection for African-Americans and other minorities. Large sections of American society are in effect persecuted in the most extreme and barbaric way.

In Ethiopia and Kenya, reported cases of lethal police violence against civilians are far and few between, apart from Kenya's eastern region facing its security problem with Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The American hypocrisy is even more staggering when we take note of the horror being perpetrated in Yemen the Arab country neighbouring Ethiopia to the north, less than 50 kilometres across the Gulf of Aden. There, Washington is backing and arming a Saudi-led military coalition that has been bombing that country for four months non-stop.

American-supplied and coordinated warplanes have been bombing residential areas, hospitals, schools, power stations, drinking-water supplies, marketplaces, mosques and even medical aid convoys. Nothing is off-limits in this slaughter of the Yemeni people whose only crime is that they kicked out a US stooge-president earlier this year. Up to

5,000 people have been killed so far.

In the latest atrocity, up to 100 civilians were killed when Saudi-flown American F15 fighter jets bombed a residential area in the city of Taiz at the weekend. That massacre no doubt prompted Washington to get its Saudi clients to quickly call a "humanitarian truce" this week as an urgent step for "damage limitation". The truce, by the way, has been ignored by the Saudis who have continued their air strikes on civilian areas across Yemen.

This US-sponsored criminal war on a defenceless civilian population classed as the poorest country in the Arab region is in the same regional neighbourhood where Obama and his Washington entourage were simultaneously pronouncing on human rights to African leaders.

African leaders especially those of increasingly confident Kenya and Ethiopia are too shrewd and polite to tell Obama to his face. But they surely know that Washington's days of sanctimonious sermonising are well and truly over. Washington is morally bankrupt from its monstrous hypocrisy. Its depravity and virtuous self-regard would make it the world's laughing stock, if its crimes were not so grim.

Besides that, China has long displaced America and the former colonial European powers as the pre-eminent investment and trade partner in Africa. Africa is on the move, as Obama noted in a speech in Kenya.

But it is because of Chinese investment and genuine partnership that Africa is at last moving towards its enormous potential.

When American politicians like Obama come to Africa and lecture about gay rights or any other sort of rights, it is just more confirmatory sign that the US has really lost the plot in the new multipolar world.

2015 Sputnik. All rights reserved.

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