Gay Rights On $2 a Day? Obama Loses Plot
By Finian Cunningham
July 28, 2015 "Information
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
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
Obama's lecture on gay and other rights sounds decadent and
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
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
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
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
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
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
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