“This is a testament to when we’re not vigilant in defense of human rights what can happen. Obviously, for an African-American, an African-American president, to be able to visit this site, I think, gives me even greater motivation in terms of human rights around the world,” US President Barack Obama said on June 27, 2013 while visiting the Goree Island off the coast of Senegal. Goree Island was one of the major, perhaps, departure point for bound, shackled and dehumanized slaves forced to leave Africa, their homeland, for America and other foreign lands, for a voyage of no return.
Photo: President Barack Obama visits Goree Island, Senegal on June 27, 2013
President Barack Obama said these worlds while stepping out into the “Door of No Return”, the last point for these slaves. In a touching moment, he looked at the horizon over the Atlantic Ocean and remained silent, obviously filled with emotion that can only be known by those who visited Goree Island and stepped out into the “Door of No Return.”
“…we have to remain vigilant when it comes to the defense of people’s human rights — because I am a firm believer that humanity is fundamentally good, but it is only good when good people stand up for what is right. And this is a testament to when we are not vigilant in defense of what is right, what can happen, ” President Obama said.
The visit to Goree Island and his statements may highlight the theme of his overall trip to Africa that will take him to South Africa and Tanzania.
Yet, his trip is not well viewed by some African leaders, especially those whose record in Human Rights remains dismal. In some of these countries, the governments used some local medias to question President Obama’s motivations and even accuse him of a hidden greedy agenda.
In Rwanda, Rwandan News Agency, close to the Rwandan Government, affirms that President Obama’s motives are natural resources not democracy (see here). The Rwandan news media go further and accuse the US President of pursuing materialistic and geopolitical interests, including Tanzanian minerals, oil, and gas.
Rwandan News Agency takes the opportunity to dismiss President Obama’s commitment to human rights, by stating that “Obama is certainly going to make the usual noises about governance and human rights, but he will also have his chequebook ready”.
Rwandan government leaders have been recently frustrated by accusations of creating trouble with and invading their neighbors and a dismal human rights record.
Recently, the Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete urged the Rwandan leaders to negotiate with their armed opposition. Rwandan leaders attacked and insulted President Jakaya Kikwete. Since then, most African leaders, especially those in South African Development Community (SADC), the United Nations, the United States and traditional leaders of the region have supported President Jakaya Kikwete’s statements.
Perhaps that is why the Rwandan News Agency statea that Tanzania is a hotbed of political intolerance and that the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has kept the Tanzanian “union by a combination of repression, vote fixing and other arm-twisting measures.” On South Africa, Rwandan News Agency says: “Corruption and intolerance are on the increase in South Africa under President Jacob Zuma.”
Coming from the Rwandan government-controlled Rwandan News Agency, these statements about Tanzania and South Africa may point to the desperation of the Rwandan leaders, more and more isolated in the region and chastised by other African leaders. By attacking the US President Barack Obama may have crossed a line.
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