Why Mugabe flushed Obama’s speech in the Lavatory

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By Field Ruwe

Obama reminds me of the farmer in the “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13 who scattered seed “some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” His recent trip to Africa remains as fresh as yesterday. I was struck not by the sheer ecstasy of his parlance, but by how desolate his tone there at the African lectern.

“The future of Africa is up to Africans,” he hollered. “For too long, I think that many looked to the outside for salvation and focused on somebody else being at fault for the problems of the continent.”

The forlorn voice bounced off the walls and echoed in the belly of the continent. In his palace, chairman of the African Union, the 91-year old Robert Mugabe was in a world of his own. He couldn’t help but to feel exultant. His strategy to keep African presidents away from Obama had worked. When he learned Obama would be speaking at the AU, he chose to do nothing about it. The last thing he wanted was to summon all African leaders to converge on Addis Ababa and listen to the authoritative political and ideological voice of Anglo-American imperialism.

Two days prior, Mugabe had watched Uhuru Kenyatta openly slam Obama over his gay rights comments and marveled at his audacity. He was glad young Kenyatta was emulating him for he had so often said gays were lower than pigs, goats and birds, and they should go to hell. And when the US Supreme Court decided to legalize gay marriage Mugabe mockingly said he would travel to the White House and ask Obama’s hand in marriage.

Kenyatta’s surprising effrontery nipped into his guest’s momentum and threw him off the pedestal into the wilderness. By the time he was getting to Addis Ababa, the Africa-changing speech that his “intellectual blood bank” took weeks to craft was attenuated. Speaking at the twilight of his presidency Obama had hoped to impress and inspire Africa, and like Kennedy, put his own distinctive rhetorical stamp on the address.

Incidentally, I too thought Obama’s speech of July 28, 2015 was as important to the Africans as the January 20, 1961 Kennedy Speech was to the Americans. In the same way Kennedy, the first Catholic president, used words to herald the commencement of a new America, Obama, the first black president, was trying to save the beleaguered continent from its forbidding fate and usher the new generation into a new Africa.

Back in 1961, Americans understood the significance of Kennedy’s speech as soon as he uttered his famous quote: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” They knew Kennedy was soliciting for their commitment and sacrifice. They obliged and committed the words to memory. Senators and Congressmen praised Kennedy for the “magnificent political speech.” The “ask not” catch phrase was broadcast expansively and editorialized in newspapers across the country. As a result, it has made sacrifice imperative up to this day.

Although some may shudder at the comparison, echoes of Kennedy’s hope and change could be heard in Obama’s “Africa for Africans” speech. In a similar eloquent manner, Obama urged Africans to rid of the dependence syndrome and face the future on their own. He called on them to join hands and set the continent on the path to the “New Frontier.” Most importantly, he recognized the exceptional values and qualities of Africans and uttered perhaps the most noteworthy words of his speech: “Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions.”

This is precisely why Africa’s “strong men” stayed away. The likes of Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of course chairman and president for life Mugabe knew Obama would become intrusive and go after them. And he did: “Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end.” With these words Mugabe flushed Obama’s speech in the lavatory.

It’s been over two weeks, there’s no affirmation of support for his speech from Chairman Mugabe; no words like “life-changing,” “brilliant,” or “a call to duty.” Not even Museveni, the once darling of the US, has emphasized the sincerity of the address and commended Obama for his deepest convictions and high hopes for Africa.

The youthful African leaders are just as numb. Joseph Kabila (43), Yahya Jammeh (49), Pierre Nkurunziza (51), Lesotho’s Letsie III (51), Uhuru Kenyatta (53), and Senegalese Macky Sall (53) are not invigorated. They have not called on their nationals to evaluate the speech, and measure the cogency of its overall message. It has since become clear that they feel no necessity to talk about Obama’s effort to motivate Africans.

The truth is they did not want him to come to Africa in the first place. In as far as they are concerned he has ceased to be their redeemer. By the time Air Force One was taking off from Washington DC, they had long switched allegiance. Xi Jinping had succeeded in creating a stratagem that had caused them to sell the entire continent for a pound of flesh. Africa had become China’s second continent.

In what could be termed as the world’s biggest bribery, China has completely blinded African leaders with “trinkets” such as highways, airports, railways, bridges, and the AU building. Like Cecil Rhodes who dreamt of a Cape-to-Cairo railroad and bribed African chiefs so he could have access to their land and minerals so were the Chinese dreaming of high-speed railways connecting major cities of Africa. They were suborning African leaders for the exact same reason.

Deals between some African leaders and the Chinese government officials worth millions of dollars were exchanging hands even as Obama landed in Addis Ababa. When he, speaking from a building erected by the Chinese, accused some of the African leaders of corruption, they dismissed him as a windbag—an empty, voluble, pretentious talker.

In truth, Mugabe and other African leaders had flushed the speech long before Obama put pen to paper. For all their wisdom Africans leaders have failed to produce appreciation and support of the other’s talents, ideologies, and theories. They have failed to appreciate the great speeches of their fellow men. Actually Obama touched on this very issue: “We have failed to learn from our own great men like Nelson Mandela who repeatedly said ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”

What African leaders may not know is that it is speech that has created great nations. God used speech to create the entire universe with the words ‘let there be light.’ His son Jesus Christ turned speech into a moral and spiritual power with his famous Sermon on the Mount. In actual fact, it is speech that won the eloquent youthful Obama the presidency and set him on the road to become one of the most rational presidents in US history. He still uses it as a catalyst to evolution.

But Obama was not to be stomped by Chairman Mugabe and his cohorts. At the African lectern, he shifted his attention to the new generation—the millennials: “We can’t let old traditions stand in the way,” he told them. “The march of history shows that we have the capacity to broaden our moral imaginations. We come to see that some traditions are good for us, they keep us grounded, but that, in our modern world, other traditions set us back… the most powerful antidote to the old ways of doing things is this new generation of African youth.”

And he added: “Africa is on the move. A new Africa is emerging. Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity…your country is better off if you have new blood and new ideas.”

It is in the millennials that Obama’s speech found reflective influence. Africa’s new generation need not be strong, but intelligent. Men and women across our motherland should not be envious and jealous, but appreciative and supportive. They should join efforts to fight tyranny, corruption, poverty, disease, and hunger. Most importantly, they should guard Africa from tricky exploiters and equip themselves with Mandela’s words: “Never, never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”

Yes, the millennials should be the seed that fell on fertile soil. It should produce a crop a million times what was sown. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner, historian, author, and a doctoral candidate. Learn more about him on his website www.aruwebooks.com. On it you shall access his autobiography, articles, and books. Contact him, blog, or join in the debate. ©Ruwe2012

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Totally agree with you. Let the millennials stand up and be counted. Let them seize control of their countries and bring about change, not through war but by active participation in politics. Stand for party positions, parliamentary positions, get appointed and start the revolution.

    Let the youth chairmen use Obama’s speech as a driving force in mentoring their members. Let’s not wait for Presidents to do it, let’s do it ourselves.

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    • @ Nostradamus

      Be honest, you did “flush” Field Ruwe’s article in the trash bin to join your intellect.
      Was it done on the misplaced presumption that it was your “once in life time” chance to achieve closest association with leading member of Zambian intelligentsia?

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    • Nostradamus and Field Ruwe the PHD candidate it should be “flushed Obama’s speech down the toilet” not “flushed Obama’s speech in the lavatory”.

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  2. These African Union leaders are embarrassing. How on earth did they see it fit to give Ka old fool Mugabe the AU chairmanship.
    He has clearly bankrupted his own country, is old, senile and then gets selected to be In charge of the most important organization in Africa.

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  3. Well written Field, without malice BUT THOUGHTFUL. The Chinese want to portray themselves as the new saviour, but they are here to pilfer Africa’s raw materials. It is important for African leaders to realise that they will only do good for their countries and future generations if they build strong institutions. The democracy we need should be an emancipation of the African people from the bondage of hunger, disease, illiteracy, corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.
    African leaders need to motivate their people to reach for greater heights. Thank you Field for making me realise that this is also applicable on a family unit level.

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  4. The authors needs to be more factual than this! Well Obama said Africa is on the rise and we must do away with old cultures that have trapped us in some form of stagnation. That was good news together with fighting poverty and allowing ourselves to prosper. All that is good,but do we have to embrace alien cultures that have no relevancy to the main issues of povery reduction,illitrace but promote disease and have no relationship with our culture? What is wrong with the Chinese building infrastructure? Isn’t that helping in poverty reduction and development of the continent? Who has prevented western countries who have been benefiting immensely from Africa’s resources from time imemorial from doing the same? What corruption is from the Chinese in this case rather than the fact that they…

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  5. What corruption is from the Chinese in this case rather than the fact that they are addressing the imperatives of national and continental development by developing economic infrastructure? The idea of supporting everything American even when it is destructive should give way to greater choices as the politico – economic dynamics are changing fast! Africa now has some choices of partners to work with so those stuck in the old ways of dictating terms may not find room all the time!

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  6. I like the conclusion. Millennials (what a catchy word) this is your opportunity to seize this continent & drive it to where you want it to be.
    KK’s generation were in their forties when they took over the continent half a century ago. To see ABC & his kind still at the mantle is an affront to progress & progression.
    Millennials this is your time. Soon & very soon you will also be obsolete.

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  7. Field Ruwe, you have always been a fan, you write well and Im glad you addressed the reality that its not about Obama and his immoral ways, but about Africa and the future. Regardless of whether its Obama or Clinton, the reality is that we need to move on. I don’t agree that our tradition has hindered us…I think we can use our tradition to succeed. Tradition has helped up remain moral and respectful. America has no tradition except that of sensuality and idolizing anything that is worldy – women, sex, money. But again, we need to look beyond that and see ourselves progress.

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  8. America has no tradition except that of sensuality and idolizing anything that is worldy – women, sex, money. Field Ruwe, you have always been a fan, you write well and Im glad you addressed the reality that its not about Obama and his immoral ways, but about Africa and the future. Regardless of whether its Obama or Clinton, the reality is that we need to move on. I don’t agree that our tradition has hindered us…I think we can use our tradition to succeed. Tradition has helped up remain moral and respectful. But again, we need to look beyond that and see ourselves progress.

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  9. @zambia ni yatu.i think your comments are misplaced,mr ruwe mentions corruption which the chinese use to build cheap infrastructure at a higher cost,ABC said zambian roads are the most expensive in the world,why corruption.america borrow money from china but the americans don’t use any chinese company but they give it to american founded companies thereby creating jobs for their nationals and tax for their state and federal govt.africa should change its mindset for it to see meaningful development,the millennials.

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    • @Planzo,the issue of Chinese corruption in infrastructure development is mostly a matter of perception than total reality. Yes there could be corruption in some contracts but not all of them! The Chinese are being contracted to build infrastructure not only in Africa but in other parts of the world too. They are even building nuclear parts in some countries in Europe.If our roads are the most expensive to build it is not the Chinese’ fault but our own after all are all road contractors Chinese? The chinese are funding infrastructure development in Africa which is helping the continent to open up areas to development.If RDA chooses to inflate contracts it is question of our own collective failure to have proper accountability systems. What corruption have the Chinese committed in…

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  10. It bothers me when Africans cannot see beyond their noses , always thinking the west should come and do every thing for them . They even continue to hate each other for the sake America . When will our people learn to be self sufficient and doing their own thing .
    I have never even in this generation of any invention coming from africa why. We just praise those out there than those who want to do something .
    Meaning no African can achieve any home grown invention.

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  11. [email protected],how much corruption have the chinese committed in other parts of the world where they have build infrastructure in Europe,USA,Mid East etc. I think we need to take responsibility and address our weaknesses and give credit where it is due. We should avoid believe unproven assumptions especially from those (the west) who believe that they will always decide Africa’s destiny! One time they say the Chinese are building roads to control natural resources but how mines in Zambia are owned by the Chinese compared to those owned by the Anglo Saxon Australians and Canadians?

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  12. The saddest part of the story is where our studest who fought for what is right will now fight for who has given them more. Thier certificates, teams for all games , projects, manner of speaking and speeches and their groupings are all pretentious.

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  13. The problem with world is that some people and countries think or feel they are the boss or role model and so every country must emulate them. What is the purpose of being an independent state when when we have other countries busy trying to dictate and even invade other countries. Does USA and its allies really mean well to Africa? It is easy to condemn leaders who have stayed in power like Obama does, but what affect the sanctions they put on such countries who suffers the most? Of course not the long serving president. We cannot all embrace the same ideologies to run our countries. Should we concentrate more on our own affairs than others! We do not need to be puppet for them after all.

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  14. Only consolation with this article is no kaponya comments as ba Field calls us to examine our moral consciousness as Africans! African meaning to do with being black (Obama is not an African)! However, one thing for certain is no one will develop our country- Zambia except Zambians!

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  15. Is Obama really a black President? If his mom was Kenyan and his father a Muzungu, was he still going to be called black? Just because his mom dated a black dude, whites call him BLACK because of racism period. In my opinion Obama is a mixed race, he has an element of white and black. I asked a white lady about Obamas race. She told me, there are a lot of S.O.Bs whites who don’t believe in colored mixed race shanishani. Why don’t we call him white because equally his mother was, but we call him black?? What’s your take mates??

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  16. Mr Ruwe, the next time you mention African leaders dont just dwell on their failures, try to also project the efforts they made and are making despite the odds that militate against them,names like John Chilambwe from malawi, kaunda, patrice lumumba, nkrumah, Ian Khama come to mind, how was uganda before Museveni came to power?. Tell us also how China which was once a closed society has come to dominate trade in the world,I am sure you can feel the impact of black monday 24/8/15 in the USA, now that they are coming to Africa are there cues we can learn from them. I would like you Mr Ruwe to perhaps write something about how Cuba withstood the 50 year economic embargo, even when their ardent supporter soviet union buckled, who has won this war the Almight Uncle Sam or Cuba’s Fidel Castro…

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    • @John Mwenya,great one! Great leaders who meant well for our continent have been overthrown and even killed by the USA and its western collaborators! We need to think of our countries with out them and forge new partnerships that can re-define our destiny otherwise we shall always be pushed around by those who hate to see us progress!

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  17. Comment:If the force of the article against Obama was against our very own president, cries of treason or defamation of the president would have been everywhere. Chimbwili Kashimba would have been the 1st one to command police to arrest Ruwe.

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