Recovering Africa

Obama’s trip is concerned with the declining security situation on the continent and the fight against Islamic extremism.

Barack Obama’s first visit to the country of his roots since attaining the presidency has been marked by all manner of psychological, identity-related and sentimental connotations. Closer to reality is the fact that the first African-American president, celebrated in Kenya as a son of Africa who has reached the pinnacle of earthly power, intends to fix his administration’s lack of interest in a continent of more than 1 billion inhabitants, which is going to be a lot more important than it is today.

Obama is trying to boost U.S. influence in Africa during a historic period, in which the ravages of raging populism and religious fanaticism weaken relations with the distant and imperial superpower more and more. China has taken complete advantage of the situation and has already become the largest trading partner on the continent.

Neither Kenya, which the president visited, nor Ethiopia, where Obama will speak in front of the African Union, can be considered models for the region. Obama’s meeting with Uhuru Kenyatta wouldn’t have been possible a year ago, when the Kenyan president was still under scrutiny by the International Criminal Court for the ethnic killings that occurred seven years ago after a disputed presidential election. The fact that Kenyatta has managed to weasel his way out of the charges doesn’t make him any more commendable. Yesterday, he showed his complete indifference to Obama’s speech requesting respect for homosexuality.

The clear objectives of the trip are the declining security on the continent and the fight against Islamic extremism. Kenya, a relative oasis for years, is now a recurrent target of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which is based in neighboring Somalia. Nigeria faces a similar situation with the insanity of Boko Haram, which extends into Chad and Cameroon. The threat of jihadism, with examples in another dozen sub-Saharan nations, demands much more involvement from Obama.

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