Obama Devalues the Legacy of Slavery

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SEPTEMBER 28, 2012 

United States in the past used to intervene uninvited in the affairs of other countries under the banner of fighting Terrorism, Democracy, Human Rights, and Freedom. Now, there is a newly found excuse for intervention – Slavery!

By Amanuel Biedemariam,

There is nothing more disturbing and frustrating than to see the legacy of blacks and slavery evoked incorrectly or to see someone using it for cheap PR points and demeaning its importance. But when it is the president of the US doing it against the people of an African nation on a global stage, it is outright shameful.

During the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), President Barack Obama raised the issue of human trafficking as a scourge that needs global attention. In his speech, President Obama likened the current international human trafficking situation to slavery.  President Obama said that he does not evoke the word slavery lightly. However, to underscore his administration’s importance on human trafficking, he is compelled to do so.

Human trafficking presents significant challenges to humanity and is a subject that requires urgent attention. However, President Obama’s watch is dubious, ill-hearted, and misleading, designed to evoke actions against targeted nations. President Obama said,

“I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea. We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers. We’re helping other countries step up their own efforts.”

President Obama is a legal scholar that understands the laws. Moreover, President Obama took his family to the coasts of Ghana on tour to understand the legacy of slavery. As an Eritrean African American, it offended my sensibilities for an American president to throw a statement of this magnitude and sally the image of people and nation for political expediency. It is outright blasphemy and wrong.

President Obama has used democracyTerrorism, and humanitarian causes to further his interventionist agendas in many parts, particularly Africa. It is outrageous to demean good humanitarian causes by pursuing geopolitical agendas unrelated to the reasons. It is also bad for the US long term because it keeps stripping away any moral high ground on related causes, thus depriving its leadership role.

President Obama’s mention of Eritrea has nothing to do with human trafficking. It has nothing to do with human rights or slavery.  

The sanction he mentioned is based on fabricated grounds. The US has targeted Eritrea for a long time. The Bush administration tried very hard to place Eritrea on the List of States that Support Terrorism failed. Because the late Congressman Donald Payne stopped them for it was groundless.

In 2009, on Christmas Eve, US ambassador to the UN Ambassador Susan Rice pressured a sanction measure against Eritrea, placed an arms embargo, and denied Eritrea the right to self-defense based on fabrication and by creating an unfounded connection between Eritrea and a militant group in Somalia.

Tens of thousands of Eritreans came out to express their outrage against Obama’s decisions. In 2011, they fabricated another story relating it to Djibouti based on fabrication in the most lopsided process making a mockery of the UN.

There was no government-sanctioned slave trade in Eritrea. There is no slavery in Eritrea. Furthermore, President Obama has never been to Eritrea. But, if he is to take his family to Massawa, the port city of Eritrea, he will not find the center of the slave trade, he will see beautiful pristine beaches populated by Eritreans from every corner around the globe. He will also learn the history and legacy of Eritrean gallantry unmatched by any.

He will see a country reeling from colonialism, World War II and, Cold War legacies that debilitated the country. He will see Eritreans rebuilding their infrastructures and rehabilitating communities devastated by decades of US-sponsored hardships. He will see Africans that have taken ownership of their destiny.

The human trafficking President Obama is referring to is not unique to Eritrea. Singling out Eritrea is wrong because it diminishes the cause and overlooks the millions displaced and seeking refugees escaping from brutality by regimes the Obama Administration props up.

Suppose the Obama administration truly wants to address human trafficking. In that case, all he has to do is encourage the people of Africa to build their countries and encourage the youth to remain in their countries through educational exchange programs, economic and cultural cooperation, and bring them close to the American way genuinely.

Suppose President Obama wants to curb human trafficking genuinely. In that case, he needs to stop his hyper-aggressive Africa policy that terrorizes Africans and work for the region’s justice, stability, and economic stability.

It is wrong for President Obama to use slavery as a cause-celebre to further his aggressive Africa agenda. When one talks of slavery, thoughts come up about millions who were traded inhumanely. They sold slaves in the Port of Alexandria, Virginia, minutes from his White House.  They tore families apart; they separated women from their children. Blacks were torn part hunted by White slave traders. 

What President Obama is doing should outrage Black Historians and Blacks all over.  President Obama would not dare compare anything to the Holocaust. However, he dared to bully an African nation in the name of slavery.  

Still, he concluded that the Eritrean American communities in the US would not be a threat to his election bid, so he decided to mention in passing brazenly and incriminated a nation and people brazenly.

Human rights, freedom, and democracy are not values espoused by the global community and should not be exploited for political expediency.

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