August 2014 – BlogGuinée


  1. Introduction
  2. The Sahara Desert: natural barrier, artificial frontier
  3. Maghreb: unity, infighting and panafricanism
  4. Porous Saharan borders
  5. The flip side: prejudice
  6. AGOA. Close-up and the fine print
  7. AGOA Covered Products
  8. Trade Capacity Building (TCB)
  9. Performance record


AGOA was a main item on the agenda of the USA-Africa Summit (Washington, DC August 4-6, 2014).

The AGOA acronym stands for African Growth and Opportunity Act. Even if the label is not a misnomer, the initials do not match the  definition of the program, which reads as follows:

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) was signed into law by President Clinton in May 2000 with the objective of expanding U.S. trade and investment with sub-Saharan Africa, to stimulate economic growth, to encourage economic integration, and to facilitate Sub-Saharan Africa’s integration into the global economy. The Act establishes the annual U.S.-sub-Saharan Africa Economic Cooperation Forum (known as the AGOA Forum) to promote a high-level dialogue on trade and investment-related issues. At the center of AGOA are substantial trade preferences that, along with those under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), allow virtually all marketable goods produced in AGOA-eligible countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free.

Based on this statement, it would be more adequate to call the program SS-AGOA, instead of AGOA.

Still, the north-south divide of the Sahara Desert is as much a geographical reality and a political creation.

It stems from the European Rush to Africa, the map-making schemes of the 1884-85 Berlin Conference, and subsequent ideological rivalries and economic strategies.

Nevertheless, historically and culturally, the Sahara has not been — and is not — a barren region or a no-man’s land.

The Sahara Desert: natural barrier, artificial frontier

Although it current name comes from Arabic, the Sahara’s geological and prehistoric records indicate that it did not always stand as “the largest subtropical hot desert and third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic.” (Wikipedia). On the contrary, back then it was a fertile land, filled with rivers, lush vegetation and wildlife. It was home to some of the most ancient peoples on earth.

Peoples from the north and south of the Sahara have shared history trough prehistory, antiquity, the Middle Age, slavery, Islam, colonization, and post-colonization. And in today’s global warming climate and globalization changes, they ever more partake a common destiny.

In what follows, I look as far back as possible, before touching on more recent data and current events.

Let’s begin with the Fulɓe “Archipelago” or “Planet.”

Before the Berbers, Fulɓe  practiced nomadic  civilization of the the region. Titled “Au Sahara il y a 5000 ans … une civilization de pasteurs de boeufs,” Henri Lhote’s article summarized his and other archeologists’  fieldwork in the Sahara. The paper exposed vestiges of prehistoric cattle herders, hunters, agriculturalists . Actually, sociocultural life in the region dates more than 10000 years B.C., i.e. when  proto-Fulɓe and contemporary groups domesticated the bovine

Written in “Les fresques d’époque bovidienne du Tassili n’Ajjer et les traditions des Peul: hypotheses,” (The Geographical Review. 435, page 6.) Dieterlen’s analysis concurred with Lhote’s approach.

The work of Lhote,  Dieterlen and others  resulted in a Rock art exhibit at Musée de l’Homme in Paris in the 19601. A mentor of Professor Djibril Tamsir Niane, Dieterlen went on to co-edit Kumen with Amadou Hampâté Bâ. The text of Kumen had been transmitted orally to Hampâté by Fulbe pastoralists from Senegal’s Ferlo region . Critics welcomed Kumen. Among them H. Deschamp compared its hybrid style of prose and poetry as well as its content to salient literary passages of the Bible. Indeed, Kumen is filled with esoteric and beautiful metaphors.

Dieterlen and Lhote invited Amadou Hampâté to see the rock art specimen found in the mountain caves Tassili n’Ajjer (Algeria). When he saw artifacts, Hampâté simply declared: “My ancestors have been here.”

As the Sahara dried up, cattle herders and agriculturalists moved out. And camel-riding Nomads settled in around oases and water holes. Using their keen knowledge of the harsh environment, the Berbers, precisely the Imuhagh (Tuareg, “People of the Veil”, “Blue People”) developed a well-adapted and dynamic culture in the Desert. From those ancient times to today, they link routinely the northern Maghreb to the Sahel southern limits.

I remember visiting Niamey as Guinea’s delegate to an OAU-sponsored seminar on livestock-rearing communities (Fulɓe, Tuareg, Koyam, etc.) in Niger’s capital city, back in 1979. Touring the town, I was awestruck at the sight of freshly arrived —or Sahara-bound— caravans of camels. The scene was a striking reminder of age-old economic and cultural contacts.

The lanes crisscrossing the Sahara date before the 7th century. It was then that Islam landed in North Africa. Combining the word with the sword Arab priest-warriors connected with indigenous peoples (Berbers, Fulɓe, Tubu, etc.) to consolidate their power.

Historian Djibril Tamsir Niane writes: « In the eleventh century the Almoravids, setting out from the Senegal estuary with armies which included large forces of Negroes from Takruur, conquered parts of the Maghrib and of the Iberian peninsula and restored sunna, a strict Muslim orthodoxy, throughout western Islam. » (General History of Africa. Volume II. Ancient civilizations of Africa. “Introduction.” UNESCO. 1984.)

Intellectual, spiritual and cultural ties continue to develop between the north and the south sides of the Sahara. That explains the presence of the same tarikh (ways) and/or suufi brotherhoods (Qadriya, Shazzaliyya, Tijaniyya) in North and West Africa.

Already in 1790, Tierno Muhammadu Samba Mombeya from Fuuta-Jalon introduced his milestone poem Oogirde Malal (The Lode of Eternal Bliss) as follows:

Ndee ɠasidaare ajamiyaa ko Muhammadu mo Saiidu Seeleyanke

Wallifanii yimɓe Maqribi

(Translation: This work in ajamiyya  is dedicated to People of the Maghreb

by Muhammadu son of Sa’idu of the Seele lineage).

Historically, the Arabic word maghreb designates the countries west of Misra (Egypt), not simply North Africa. Mashriq, east, is the opposite noun.

Decades later, in the mid-1800, pioneer colonialist Louis-Léon Faidherbe  drew from his previous Maghreb experience in building the French West Africa Empire.

Maghreb: unity, infighting and panafricanism

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Maghreb leaders and movements supported each other politically and militarily. That solidarity held on in the first decades of independence.

Furthermore, in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, the newly independent states ignored the North-South Sahara line. Consequently, the Casablanca Group integrated countries from North (Algeria, Morocco), East (Egypt), and West (Ghana, Guinea, Mali) Africa.

First Conference African Casablanca Group, Rabat, Jan. 1961. From left to right:

Prince Moulay Hassan (futur Hassan II, (Morocco), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana, head only, behind Nasser), Ferhat Abbas (Algeria, next to Nkrumah), Sékou Touré (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), King Mohamed V (Morocco)

Algeria is the only African country to host two continental —and Diaspora— cultural events. Thirty-years apart, the Festival panafricain d’Alger of 1969 and 2009 are superseded only by the memorable Festac 77 (Lagos-Kaduna, 1977)

Under Sékou Touré‘s dictatorship, Algeria’s ambassador to Conakry, Messaoudi Zitouni, was routinely asked to attend the government’s sessions, as full member.

Telli Diallo and Zitouni were diplomatic colleagues — and allegedly longtime “friends”. However, neither him, nor the Algerian government sought apparently to prevent or reacted Telli’s arbitrary arrest, torture and murder by starvation and thirst at Camp Boiro in 1976, on Sékou Touré’s order.

However, in recent decades, North Africa has nearly splintered about  the Western Sahara issue. Hostility and isolationism now prevail. Thus, for the past twenty years, the Morocco/Algerian border has remained closed.

The current issue of Jeune Afrique tells about two villages distant by less than two miles apart on opposite sides of the Algeria/Morocco frontier. But relatives and neighbors can visit each other only if they go through Spain!

Jeune Afrique, Special Algerie-Maroc. La déchirure

Morocco left the defunct Organization of African Unity in 1984 to protest the institution’s support for the Polisario movement of Western Sahara. Today, it is still a non-member of the African Union.

Yet, in recent years, however, Morocco has conducted diplomatic charm offensive and business contacts, from Senegal all the way down to Gabon and South Africa.

Porous Saharan borders

The borders inherited from the Berlin Conference are so porous in the Sahara as to be non-existent in the field. Following the millennia-old trade routes, modern transport vehicles facilitate contacts in the region, for all sakes. Hence, in September 2011, in the aftermath of his father’s downfall, flamboyant playboy Al-Saadi Gaddafi drove straight to Niamey with his entourage. There he lived in asylum until his extradition to Tripoli by the government of Niger, last March.

Al-Saadi Gaddafi

In 2013, the Malian state faced obliteration from groups heavily armed with the Gaddafi’s looted weapons and ammunition depots.

Last, but not the least, Boko Haram gets its supply of arms, ammunitions, and logistics from two sources:

  • Equipment (armored vehicles, trucks, even tanks) from ransacked Nigerian military barracks
  • Contraband stockpiles from Libya through the Sahara.

The flip side: prejudice

From the above, we know that the Sahara’s environment does not prevent or deter deep ties between the North and the South. Yet, misconceptions, prejudice, and conflicting interests persist. Examples:

  1. Black communities have lived in North Africa for centuries. Nevertheless, they —and recently arrived migrants— face deep-seated racial prejudices that sometimes lead to violence. Read the article “Racisme : au Maghreb les Noirs sont-ils des citoyens comme les autres ?” in Jeune Afrique.
  2. Racism is entrenched in the Maghreb, Mauritania and Sudan, where Arab domination persists. Since independence in 1960, Mauritania has faced the legacy of slavery and discrimination. There is ample evidence of deep-seated racial polarization. And conflicts between Arabs and non-Arabs are recurrent.

    Farther east, following decades of civil war, Sudan was forced to recognize an independent South Sudan in 2011.
  3. Oriental hegemony was violently overthrown in 1964 in Zanzibar, a former slave colony of the Sultanate of Oman in the Arabian Peninsula. Soon after the Black majority in the Atlantic Ocean island chose to form with the mainland Tanganyika the United Republic of Tanzania.
  4. Gaddafi often criticized and distanced himself from other Arab countries. He frequently claimed a pro-Sub-Saharan Africa. Unfortunately, in Libya non-Arab minorities, in general, and Black Africans suffered discrimination under Gaddafi. The plight of the Tubu of southern Libya became a notorious case of collective human rights violations.

Conversely, some Sub-Saharan tend to exclude the Maghreb.

For instance, in the early preparatory phase of FESTAC’77 a dispute broke out between Nigeria and Senegal around whether Maghreb countries should participate in the Symposium —they were part of the planned shows. Senegal argued that only Black countries should be members. Nigeria disagreed and declared that all African countries were entitled to full participation in FESTAC’77.

Being the host and the main bankroller of the event, the Nigerian Federal government revoked the credentials of the director of the Symposium (Sénégal’s Alioune Diop or Pathé Diagne, I’m not sure). Next, playing on the Sékou Touré vs. Senghor rivalry regarding négritude, Lagos (at that time the capital-city) asked Guinea to head the Symposium in lieu of Senegal. Conakry appointed a colleague of mine, the late Madigbè Kourouma,  —philosophy professor and dean of the Department of Social Sciences of Conakry— as its representative. He was granted a leave of absence and he headed for Lagos, where I and other faculty joined him months later as Guinea delegates to the Symposium. In my case, I attended as individual member and as vice-president of the commission on language and literature. My boss was cabinet minister Sikhé Camara. He oversaw my efforts  to prepare Guinea’s immaterial cultural items to be presented at Festac. Sending diligent missions throughout the country, we were able to gather specimen of Pular Ajamiyaa, Kpèlèwö (Guerzé) and Lomaghöy (Toma) indigenous alphabets, etc.

Yet, despite the above reminders, the Sahara is perceived as a strict limit. That view is reflected at the U.S. State Department or in academia.

Hence, the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau  groups together the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya) with countries on the Asian continent (Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen).

And Middle-East research and studies departments reflect this model at American academic institutions.

USAID’s programs covers 42 African countries. The Maghreb is not included.

The Obama Administration upheld that tradition in a document named the U.S. Strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the AGOA sessions at the USA-Africa Summit didn’t include the Maghreb.  It was diplomatically excused —actually it was barred legally — from the talks.  What a paradox for an event meant to bring the U.S and Africa closer together?

Bucking that approach, and contrary to civilian agencies, the Pentagon goes for a continental approach. Its United States Africa Command (Africom) plan encompasses all five African regions: northern, southern, eastern, western and central.

Summing it up, like any other place on earth, Africa swings between push and pull, attraction and rejection, fission and fusion, cooperation and conflict, centrifugal and centripetal forces. …

In the memorable words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The world is all messed up.” (I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech, Memphis, TN, 3 April 1968 speech). In these trying times —as in past ones, including slavery and colonization— Africa holds the perennial standing as the world’s economic and technological laggard. In today’s globalization, the ranking wreaks havoc in the Cradle of humankind in the form of alienation, marginalization, brain drain, … Arbitrary bureaucratic boundaries, mindless political dissensions and external compartmentalization compound the continent’s challenges. They hurt its struggle for revival, re-affirmation, relevancy, growth and development. The road to freedom and self-reliance is blocked by greed-dominated  and technology-driven forces —internal and external—, amidst relentless inequities, oppression, corruption, impunity, poverty and terrorism. In that regard, the Machiavellian “Divide and rule” precept may benefit the so-called “elites” of failed and non-viable African states.  But it is utterly detrimental to the peoples and the land…

The North-South Saharan line  is drawn in the sand (no pun intended!). It is more artificial than real. It seems to overlook deep historical and political bonds as well as current economic and cultural inter-dependencies.

Worse, Sub-Saharan Africa is a euphemism for previous derogatory names: Black Africa, Dark Continent, land of savages, etc.

I just wish that the makers of AGOA had, without ambiguity, called it  SS-AGOA. Because the program actually deals only with one part —not the whole— of Africa.

And how does it do it? What mechanisms drive AGOA? How does it work?

AGOA. Close-up and the fine print

Last July, on the eve of the USA-Africa Summit, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a report entitled “African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA): Background and Reauthorization”. The paper compiles AGOA’s results and ponders over its future.

Drawing from reliable data, authoritative sources, the document offers an assessment of the program. It sheds light on AGOA’s objectives, complexity and contradictions.

Created 14 years ago, AGOA is a “nonreciprocal and unilateral” trade preference initiative. It targets Sub-Saharan African countries and covers U.S. imports at the exclusion of exports, “so reauthorization only requires action by the U.S. government.”

AGOA is a “one-way” preference accorded to those countries “with the goal of enhancing export-led economic growth.”

Above all, it excludes “items that may be considered import sensitive.”

It should not be confused with “other U.S. trade liberalization efforts such as free trade agreements (FTAs) or multilateral agreements through the World Trade Organization (WTO), which reduce and/or eliminate tariffs for both U.S. imports and exports.”

Although it involves more than 50 countries, the program was domestically conceived, unilaterally designed and Congress-authorized.

I previously suggested that the USA-Africa Summit is a lopsided partnership of the richest and the poorest of the face of the planet Earth.

Obviously, the designers of AGOA factored in the structural (economic) imbalance between the two parties. But, what is the proportion between altruism and self-serving objectives?

The CRS paper highlights some restrictive measures that, in essence, grant advantage to the USA. That’s hardly surprising, given that AGOA is neither a charitable endeavor nor an aid program. It’s a business and trade pact.

So, what mechanisms actually drive AGOA? How does it work? My own take on the CRS report is twofold:

AGOA Covered Products

The program covers 5,200 tariff lines for duty-free access on U.S. imports. None of those include “politically sensitive” products: dairy, beef, fish, cereals, etc. Also, most AGOA members can’t meet the tough “U.S. food safety standards”. Does the US do something to bring its partners up to modern quality production levels?

Trade Capacity Building (TCB)

The CRS report notes that AGOA member countries face “poor infrastructure, inadequate access to electricity, and skilled labor shortages.”

That’s not new. Therefor, AGOA should have integrated a germane approach and adequate resources to help address such predicaments, which are characteristic of under-development, in general.

As the report indicates, the US has spent $4 billion since 2001 to enhance AGOA countries trading capabilities. “Administered through different agencies, particularly USAID”, those funds are far from matching the daunting of AGOA partners. It’s the sign of a troubled relationship.

Capacity building is one way of designating the process of training the productive forces or creating skilled human resources, which constitute the prime capital and the engine driving projects and policies, particularly in business. Perhaps, the planners of AGOA overlook this key aspect of the project. And now it’s coming home to roost.

Also, it validates  the viewpoint I outlined in the blog Democracy and literacy. Building a trained workforce is the responsibility of African governments. Foreign partners ought to be able to hire qualified or easily trainable workers.

At the onset of the country’s industrial awakening, the late Den Xiaoping did not focus on the size of China’s domestic market to attract foreign investors. Instead, he drew their attention to the availability of huge and cheap pools of literate workers. It was an appealing invitation that prompted capitalists to invest. At the same time, China was investing heavily in higher education and in research lab. In so doing, the Communist leadership accelerated China’s rise as an economic super-power.

Likewise, African states must give priority to literacy and education. Otherwise, the continent’s role in the world economy will lack incentive for outside financing. It will stagnate and shrink in the globalization era.

For instance, the CRS report indicates that in 2012 “TCB funding in AGOA countries dropped to $95 million from an average of $629 million over the previous five years.”

TCB funding in AGOA countries (in millions US$)

during the period 2006-2011 and in 2012 respectively

Should this declining trend continue, the partnership risks to gradually weaken and loose support and/or purpose.

Performance record

Clearly, the CRS report indicates that AGOA is an under-performer. So much so that its re-authorization is subject to debate. Had it been a success story, its renewal would have been almost automatic.

Alas, some countries do not participate at all. They probably fail to meet AGOA’s basic economic criteria. Among such states gigantic is the vast and potentially rich D.R. Congo.

Imports for consumption basis. Energy products defined as HTS chapter 27. Stars represent preferential treatment on over 75% of total exports to the United States, including energy products. Map only includes countries eligible for AGOA benefits in 2013.

Source: Analysis by CRS. Data from U.S. ITC.

Also, the Nigerian giant ranks below Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Why? Is it because of the oil mirage that has so profoundly undermined the Federation’s social fabric and economy? It was at the roots of the Biafra secession in 1966, and the following civil war that claimed millions of lives and caused inhuman suffering. The successive military regimes failed the country. They generated violent insurgencies: first the MENDE in the Niger Delta (Southeast). Boko Haram took the bloody relay around 2000, in the Northeast. Long time in denial, Federal Government must at present look itself in the mirror. The picture is ugly: incompetence, corruption and gross violations everywhere. Desperate, Abuja is now dialing SOS worldwide.  Is it too late for a failed nation-state to repair decades of misrule?

African countries perform poorly in AGOA, compared to Asia. Even the top-five countries trailed badly the results achieved between the U.S. and its Asian trade partners.

 U.S. Imports of Apparel Products by Country

(millions of U.S. dollars, 2013)

AGOA and Non-AGOA US imports (Chart – Tierno S. Bah)

I would be remiss if I don’t mention the Guinean. Although smaller, Guinea had the potential to achieve food security and good earnings from staple crops exports. Amazed that the major rivers spring out of the mountain region of Fuuta-Jalon, geographers gave nicknamed it “Waterhouse” or “Switzerland” of West Africa. Unfortunately, since independence in 1958, the country has known only dictatorships, civilian and military. The cycle was supposed to end in 2010. Unfortunately, the presidential election was rigged and violent. And its unexpected outcome has further dimmed Guinea’s prospects for democracy and development. Despite its mineral resources; rather, because of them!

In the end, AGOA may have come too late, too little. The program started in 2000, i.e. more than thirty years after natural disasters and political calamities seriously altered the physical environment and the social climate in most African countries.

Will new strategies emerge to stop the decline and usher in peace, stability, and prosperity?

Can trickle-down theory be part of the solution? Let’s see.

Next, Trickle-down economics and philanthropy

Tierno S. Bah

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In his previous quoted opinion-piece “Africa on the Rise” Nicholas Kristof writes: “All in all, though, Africa is becoming more democratic…”

But the author gives no evidence to back his statement. In such case, as the saying goes, he is entitled to his opinions, not to the facts.  And regarding democracy, in devil is in the details, not in broad proclamations, especially in Africa, .

Let’s survey briefly the continent’s political landscape.

Among other things, democracy means alternation and change in leadership. But we notice that the US-Africa Summit included several presidents  who have ruled their countries since last century, i.e., when Barack Obama was in college. The list includes:

  • Equatorial Guinea, 1979
  • Cameroon, 1982
  • Uganda, 1986
  • Burkina Faso, 1987
  • Sudan, 1993
  • Rwanda, 1994
  • Gambia, 1996
  • Congo, 1997
  • Algeria, 1999

Presidents Barack Obama, Teodoro Obiang Nguema and First Lady, Michelle Obama

Other countries (DRC, Gabon, Togo) experience the hereditary presidency phenomenon. Others barely escaped it (Guinea, Senegal, Libya). Elsewhere  (Congo, Cameroon, Uganda), presidential sons —not the daughters, by the way— are being groomed to succeed their father.

In Kenya, Barack Obama’s ancestral home, President Uhuru Kenyatta is on trial at the International Criminal Court for his alleged role in the post-election violence that left 1,200 dead and displaced 600,000 people.

Cameroon’s President Paul  and First Lady Chantal Biya

In Burkina Faso and in Uganda, the Constitution is likely to be tweaked to allow another run and win by the sitting presidents.

Thus, having preceded Barack Obama in the presidential function, MM. Yoweri Museveni and Blaise Compaoré will probably be still in office in 2016, after their US counterpart has returned to private life.

That’s unthinkable in America. Popular or unpopular, successful or not, occupants of the White House come and go after a four or eight-year mandate. And life goes on in the U.S.A.

Strong institutions are better than strong men, Obama reminded wisely, in 2011, the visiting Presidents of Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Niger.

Presidents Barack Obama and Yoweri Museweni, First Lady Michelle Obama

All that said, many African states hold scheduled polls and enjoy regular and peaceful changes at the helm of the state.

But, how many rotten apples does it take to spoil the barrel?

Notwithstanding the exceptions, post-colonial Africa has been, overall, under the spell of a misguided leadership.

Two-tiered societies

Africa’s current ruling minorities took over at the end of the colonial system beginning in the late 1950s and ending with the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Post-colonial leaders have been unable or unwilling to steer the continent toward genuine development. Actually, their very existence means that African societies are two-layered systems. On top, one finds westernized groups (politicians, administrators, professional categories, business groups, health care specialists, educators, etc.). Fluent in the language of the former colonizer, this layer is in power. At the bottom, there are rural majorities, who speak no European languages, and who hold onto the native languages. In general, they do not read or write in their own idioms.

Presidents Barack Obama, Yayhya & Zeinab Jammeh, First Lady Michelle

Note that even in regions more homogeneous, such as the Maghreb, the above divide persists, sometimes for worse. Hence, the Algerian Civil War (1991-2002) killed hundreds of thousands of peoples. It pitted traditional Islamist groups against the civilian and military elite, more open to Western governmental principles and methods. Likewise, in Egypt, a secularist military officers and the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood have been fighting each other since the aftermath of Gamal A. Nasser’s coup in 1954. Although it has known short periods of compromises, the intense rivalry has gone unabated since then. Its milestones include the hanging of the Brotherhood main theoretician, Sayyid Qutb (1966), the lethal assault on President Anwar Sadat (1981), the bloody crackdown against Morsi’s supporters (2013).

Based on the preceding, we can safely say that there are two Africa.

The USA-Africa Washington DC Summit dealt with the official and top one.

Unfortunately, this powerful group has so far answered the question “Am I my brothers/sisters keeper?” negatively.

Specifically, it has failed to eradicate illiteracy as a means of enfranchisement of the majority of citizens across Africa. …

Contrary to Kristof’s statement, Africa will become democratic only when each state has fulfilled its obligation to spread social, functional literacy among citizens.


Whether oral or written, true knowledge is valuable. But the written word has an edge over verbal communication. It gives actual meaning to the motto: knowledge is power. …

Alone, literacy is not a sufficient proof of democracy. However, it sustains the creation of open channels of communication between leaders and citizens. That, in turn, may result in productive social dialog and participatory politics.

Unfortunately, in Africa poverty and illiteracy thwart and impede the emergence of democratic societies.

In politics, literacy reduces the citizens’ dependency on official propaganda and party demagoguery. It empowers them to access diverse sources and dissenting opinions.

Oppressive regimes and systems discourage the emergence of literate citizenry.

During the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, slaves were prohibited from learning to read and write.

In the aftermath of the Abolition of slavery, the Jim Crow laws and the Literacy Tests prevented Blacks from acquiring literacy. They established tricky tests aimed at voiding the registration and/or ballot of African-Americans.

In Africa, illiteracy has been the breeding ground for poverty, ignorance and authoritarian rule and dictatorship.

Voters depend on false oral information, rumors, and ethnic affinities in casting their ballot.

Politicians play on ethnic sensibilities to win votes and hang on to power.

Political campaigns are not necessarily based on elaborate programs and relevant socioeconomic projects. On the contrary, they consist in ephemeral tours and rallies, which set the stage for empty promises and stale speeches.

Once the electoral campaign over, the country goes back to business as usual, i.e. the neglect of the vital needs of the peasantry.

This is not new. Back in the 1960s, in his landmark Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon, accurately characterized and predicted the failures of the African petite-bourgeoisie in the chapter “National Consciousness”.

His scathing but accurate portrayal fits the Republic Guinea, then and now, like hand and glove.

Insincere and opportunistic, the regime of President Ahmed Sékou Touré (1958-1984), run successively, but unsuccessfully, two literacy campaigns. The Shah of Iran financed the first operation in 1964. It led to a dead-end. In 1968, Sekou Toure ordered the substitution of French by the local languages in schools, without any preparation whatsoever. Never mind the confusion and chaos created but the abrupt measure in the minds of parents and students. It was fine as long as it allowed him to score a fictional political victory against imperialism.

From 1968 to his death at the Cleveland Heart Clinic in 1984, compilations of Sekou Toure’s ideological speeches replaced literary and philosophy books and manuals in high-school and in university curricula.

Presidents Barack Obama, Alpha & Fanta Kaba Conde, First Lady Michelle

Meanwhile, personality cult, nepotism, corruption, impunity, human rights violations, torture and death at the Boiro Concentration Camp, did the rest to ruin Guinea.

At his inauguration in 2010, President Alpha Condé —Sekou Touré’s fourth successor— promised the revival of literacy campaigns and support for literacy in the indigenous Mande Nko writing system.

During the first two of his five-year term, Alpha Condé ignored the country’s hinterland. He visited it only on the eve of the legislative elections. People made the connection between his presence and the scheduled poll. Disappointed, some youth booed and heckled him in his electoral stronghold of Kankan. True to his impulsive temperament, he lost control.  Responding angrily, he awkwardly taunted back his challengers.

If President Condé showed reluctance to touch base with the Guinean populations, he was, on the contrary, eager to jet around the world.  In the 2010-2012 period,  he made dozens of trips abroad.

In July 2013, violent ethnic confrontations erupted in the Forest region. More than a hundred people died. Many more sustained serious injuries amid widespread property destruction. Instead of rushing to stop the conflict, comfort mourning families and visit the wounded, he flew to an ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria.

Finally, despite the ongoing Ebola crisis in Guinea, he opted for  travelling to Washington, DC. His peers from Liberia and Sierra Leone stayed at home to monitor the epidemic. Yet, it is commonly known and scientifically established that Southeastern Guinea is the epicenter of the virus in West Africa.

Under Mr. Conde’s administration the living standards of the populations have  declined.

Meanwhile, a series of dubious financial dealings have come to light. They include revelations about the licensing schemes for the Simandou’s rich  iron ore deposits. The scandal originated with the late dictator, General Lansana Conté and his fourth wife, Mamadie Touré. But it is still unfolding and it may not spar Guinea’s sitting president.

Bottom line, since 2010, Guineans have learned that they can expect little from (a) M. Condé’s casual and derelict attitude toward them  and, among other things, their unmet literacy needs  (b) his obsession with mining in the land of the so-called “geological scandal.”

Next, AGOA and Africa. Trickle-down economics. Business and philanthropy

Tierno S. Bah

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Earlier this month Washington, D.C. hosted the US-Africa Summit convened by President Barack Obama and the first lady, Michelle: respectively a direct and distant son and daughter of Africa.

Here are, summarily, my takes on the event.

Lionel Richie performs at the White House State dinner

Actually, the full schedule took five days: from August 1st to 6th. First, the White House organized the Washington Fellowship For Young African Leaders. President Obama quickly changed the name of the first class to the Mandela Washington Fellowship. Then, speaking to the young audience, Michelle Obama declared: “Believe me, the blood of Africa runs through my veins” to thundering applause.

Summit  and “summitis”

From time immemorial, state ceremonies have lavished in heraldry and protocol, titles and insignia, pageantry and pomp, etiquette and decorum. The Washington meetings complied with that tradition.

And, given the top-level functions of the participants from both sides —hosts and guests— the event logically bore the name of summit. However, on the flip side, summits have generated a neologism: summititis.  The word was coined to question the high frequency and low-output of such meetings. Its form includes the use of a suffix found in the name of such diseases and illnesses: encephalitis, meningitis, hepatitis, etc.

Presidents Obama, Kagame, with daughter Ange Ingabire Kagame, Michelle Obama

On one hand, summits have become budget-intensive and a costly habit. On the other hand, they tend to yield little or nothing. And their aftermath stands way below the expectations expected from them. Hence the summititis nickname with its implicit criticism and open skepticism.

“Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Ritchie.

Does the Washington Summit belong in that category? The answer is, most likely, yes. And, as far as I’m concerned, here is why.

What the show didn’t tell

The Washington Summit was almost fully attended, with the exception, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Western Sahara.

It displayed a great show of state protocol and diplomatic tradition: honor guards, flags, motorcades, music, food, security services, etc. For the Washington Post, U.S.-African Leaders Summit noted that it was “not exactly a state dinner but lots of pomp and circumstance.”

In theory and de jure, the Washington Summit —like the United Nations meetings— brought together leaders who are equal de jure. Contrary to the G8 or G10, however, it was de facto a lopsided gathering between uneven stakeholders, i.e. between representatives of the richest country and those of the poorest continent on earth. No need for a reminder, though, that’s a known fact.

President Macky and first lady Marietou Sall

Senior cabinet ministers represented the presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone; they stayed home to monitor the Ebola virus crisis. However, their neighbor, the president of Guinea, chose to minimize the threat. Accompanied by a strong delegation, he participated in the Summit.

Likewise, President Goodluck Jonathan attended in spite of hundreds of high-schools girls still captives following their abduction in the violent campaign waged by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Soul singer Lionel Richie entertained the official dinner at the White House. Too bad that he was not peered with an African group or artist to underscore the Africa-USA cooperation mood of the Summit.

He could have jammed with a group from the continent. After all many jazz celebrities have done just that. In each of Africa’s five regions one finds court/royal musical traditions rooted in the pre-colonial kingdoms and empires. A a member of the Guinean delegation to the Symposium of the memorable FESTAC ‘77 (Festival of Arts and African Culture, Lagos-Kaduna, 1977), I recall that on opening day, the Nigerian Federal Government hosted a dinner for attending Heads of State and chiefs of delegations. Performed by Sory Kandia Kouyate, live Kora music and medieval Mande songs enlivened the ceremony. This Jeli genius grew up as a court poet in the Fuuta-Jalon (Guinea). He rose to international fame as a mezzo-soprano in the Ballets Africains of Fodeba Keita, himself a descendant of the illustrious Morifidian Diabaté, Samori Toure‘s ultimate companion, in glory and in exile.… Again, bards and praise-singers like Kandia Kouyate are found in Mande society and elsewhere in Africa. Kandia died, unfortunately, in December 1977, while performing. Just like Miriam Makeba in 2008.

Kouyate Sori Kandia, 1935-1977 Miram Makeba (1932-2008)

(“Keddo” from Epopée du Manding by Kouyate Sory Kandia. 1968)

“The Click Song”  by Miriam Makeba, 1964

Arguably, the Washington DC Summit was predicated on two claims :

  • Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies
  • Democracy is gaining ground on the continent


Evidently, such assumptions brim with confidence and optimism. But their advocates are only entitled to their opinions, not to the facts. And, in this case, both proclamations fail Africa’s reality test. They are either thoroughly challenged or simply negated.

Obviously, the first assertion links the mining sector’s activity to economic growth, and possibly to development. Actually, mining is a primary sector investment that is is disjointed from the whole economy. Worse, the words mining and development are contradictory and antithetical.

The second contention may be less tangible, but it’s no less real and onerous. It reminds us democracy’s known prerequisites, among which literacy ranks high.  Let’s review the above pair of presumptions.

Extractive industry and African development: oxymoron and hype

For nearly a decade now, it’s been often said that Africa is the new, or next promise land for investment, growth, and, eventually, development.

For example, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof asserted that “Africa is becoming more democratic, more technocratic and more market-friendly.” Read his “Africa on the Rise” paper.

Such claims are based on the propects for increased exports of raw materials: minerals, lumber, industrial crops. They have little to do with such strategic and vital matters as energy output, water management, food production, health care and education investments, research and development, environmental preservation, etc.

The much-vaunted pace of growth of some African economies is exaggerated. It is tied to a sector of the economy that has failed African peoples time and again. For one thing, it perpetuates the 1998 Colonial Pact, which assigned Africa the role of supplier of raw material and the passive market for cheap and overpriced manufactured goods. Colonial powers strictly enforced that rule. And post-colonial African rulers have followed suite. As a result, the continent’s economy has weakened further. Mining fuels corruption and poverty. It increases dependency on foreign aid. It ruins the environment. And, adding to a longstanding “brain drain”,  it pushes out a ceaseless flux of unskilled laborers toward the borders of “Fortress Europe” and America.

Paradoxically, it’s no secret that extractive industries repatriate more profit money than they invest on the continent. Year in, year out!

In essence, the terms African development and extractive industry are antithetical. They may sound somewhat attractive to foreign investors.  But for the majority of Africans, i.e., the rural dwellers, the pair is just a hyped and dubious oxymoron.

A saying in Nigeria sums it about oil production and export, which led the giant Federation from boom to gloom. That assessment applies to other African countries and the exploitation of their natural resources.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Beninese American Djimon Hounsou, the movie Blood diamond (2006) depicts the ravages and the cruelty of African mining.

In 2012, South Africa police gunned down 34 striking platinum miners in Marikana, near Johannesburg. They had grievances against the low wages paid by the mining conglomerate Lonmin. The tragic shootout was reminiscent of the Sharpeville massacre under the Apartheid regime in 1960.

South Africa. Marikhana Platinum Mine police shootings. 2012

The Second Congo War (also known as the Great War of Africa) began in 1998. It is still going on at a lower intensity level. Wikipedia calls it “the deadliest war in modern African history, it has directly involved nine African nations, as well as about 20 armed groups. By 2008, the war and its aftermath had killed allegedly 5.4 million people, mostly from disease and starvation, making the Second Congo War the deadliest conflict worldwide since World War II. The war and the conflicts afterwards, including the Kivu conflict and Ituri conflict, were driven by, among other things, the trade in conflict minerals”:  diamonds, cobalt, coltan, gold and other lucrative resources.

Last but not the least, surveying the post-colonial history of my home country, Guinea, aka Africa’s “geological scandal”, observers acknowledge that mining and dictatorship have combined to keep a once-promising land among the 10 poorest countries of the world, since it gained independence from France in 1958. Last year saw worldwide press coverage of the licensing scandal of the Simandou’s rich iron ore deposits. The revelations prompted an FBI investigation, under the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. So far, it has led to the arrest, prosecution, trial, conviction and prison sentencing of Frederic Cilins, a French citizen with ties to diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz.…

Next, “Democracy and literacy. Dictatorship and illiteracy

Tierno S. Bah

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Carol Anderson, Associate professor of African-American Studies and History at Emory University

 What Would the Soviets Say About Michael Brown?

From Birmingham to Ferguson, a brief history of how racial tensions at home have undermined America abroad.

Americans are not the only ones who have been riveted by the news out of Ferguson, Missouri, over the past two weeks. The images of tear gas-filled streets and camouflaged police pointing semiautomatic guns at unarmed demonstrators in the U.S. heartland have attracted laughable hypocrisy from around the world. Iran’s grand ayatollah decried the “brutal treatment” of African-Americans in the United States. The major news organ in China pointed to Ferguson, where a police officer killed an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, as indicative of America’s “human rights flaw.” News broadcasts in Russia noted dryly, “Cases of racism are still not rare in the nation of exemplary democracy.”

And Egypt, which has come under heavy U.S. diplomatic fire for massacring protesters during the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood a year ago, threw right back at President Barack Obama his words urging “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.”

But for all of the recent schadenfreude*  on display, this diplomatic game isn’t new. In fact, it has been around at least since the Cold War. The worst part of this posturing isn’t its speciousness. It is the willingness to use the harassment and persecution of America’s most vulnerable citizens as foreign-policy fodder, cynically casting human rights as just another diplomatic battleground rather than as a framework to bring about real equality, justice, and peace.

[*Note. — Schadenfreude: satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune. — T.S.Bah]

During the Cold War, the Soviets eagerly depicted every lynching or Klan-beaten Freedom Rider in Birmingham, Alabama, as a warning to the world that the United States was fundamentally unable to deal with non-whites on the basis of equality. The implications were clear: If the U.S. government could treat its own citizens with such disdain and viciousness, peoples in the Third World were in mortal danger if they aligned with the West.

In 1951, Assistant Secretary of State Dean Rusk acknowledged that, “The greatest burden we Americans have to bear in working out satisfactory relations with the peoples of Asia is our minority problems in the United States.”

The Soviets were determined to make relations with Africa a problem as well. When Watts, Detroit, and Newark exploded in riots in the mid- to late 1960s, the KGB seized the opportunity to turn the anger, frustration, and rage of black Americans into a foreign policy coup. As America’s inner cities burned, Soviet agents sent, to African diplomats at the United Nations, forged letters full of “racially insulting” incitement from supposed U.S. white supremacists. That successfully fueled distrust of the United States in Africa. One Soviet agent later remarked, “I lost no sleep over such dirty tricks, figuring they were just another weapon in the Cold War.”

From Truman through Nixon, Washington was keenly aware of how the United States’ racial tensions played out abroad. It became especially hard to ignore when diplomats from India, the Caribbean, and Africa became ensnared in the discriminatory net of Jim Crow and were tossed out of a theater or denied hotel accommodations.

Marian Anderson, contralto singer, 1897–1993

But, despite the cost to its international objectives, the U.S. government was unwilling to attack the problem of racism at its roots. Instead, successive administrations used several strategies to counter Jim Crow’s deleterious effects on U.S. foreign policy.

One was to place token blacks, such as journalist Carl Rowan and singer Marian Anderson, on international delegations to give the illusion of equality.

Another was to point to the riots, court cases, and demonstrations happening around the country during the civil rights movement as proof that the American system could tackle the “unfinished business of democracy.”

The primary strategy, however, was to go on the attack by highlighting widespread human rights violations in the Soviet bloc.

But just as the dismantling of the Jim Crow laws over the course of the 1960s failed to put an end to racial discrimination in the United States, neither did the end of the Cold War in the 1980s put an end to how racial discrimination at home affects America’s image abroad.

In 2005, just two years into the war in Iraq that was cast as Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the U.S. Gulf Coast, inundating New Orleans. Thousands of Americans, the overwhelming majority of them poor and black, were trapped in a drowning city. The soaring rhetoric about democracy that had cloaked the war in Iraq quickly fell to earth — in part due to the spectacle at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Even the conservative-leaning Daily Mail in Britain, recognized that: “Here is a country that is able to overthrow a dictator if it chooses, but is so immersed in the outcome of a war that it is incapable of reacting accordingly to the problems of hundreds of thousands of its own citizens effected [sic] by a natural disaster.”

El Mundo, Spain’s leading newspaper, emphasized that the disaster in New Orleans “highlights the weaknesses of a country so preoccupied by its imperialist adventures that it is neglecting its most valuable asset — the well-being of its people.”

France’s Libération further explained, “Katrina has revealed America’s weaknesses: its racial divisions, the poverty of those left behind by its society, and especially its president’s lack of leadership.”

Hamburg-based Die Welt was even more succinct: “America is ashamed.”

Fast-forward three years and Obama’s election seemed to signal to the world that the United States had overcome its sordid past. It marked a chance, as one Iranian reporter said, for America to “fix its image in the world.”

But since that electrifying November night in 2008, a strange paradox has occurred. While a black man has occupied the White House, conditions for African-Americans have at best stagnated and in many cases worsened. A 2013 report by researchers at Brandeis University calculated that “half the collective wealth of African-American families was stripped away during the [2008] Great Recession.” A rash of voter-suppression laws targeted — much like the old grandfather clauses — at African-Americans and supported by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, threatens to disfranchise millions of black voters.

The economic and political onslaught is punctuated by the number of unarmed black Americans shot and killed by “stand your ground” vigilantes or increasingly militarized police forces, with no assurances whatsoever that justice will occur.

These grievances converged in Ferguson, Missouri, and came to light for the world to see.

The United States has been grappling with its relatively diminishing economic global power since the 1970s by turning instead to what was supposed to be the nation’s strength. A favorite trope for presidents and secretaries of state attempting to project power abroad has been to talk of America as the land of opportunity, a bastion of human rights.

But murdered teenagers and tear gas in Ferguson don’t reflect the image of the “shining city on the hill” that politicians in Washington want the world to see. The ongoing inability to make the promises of democracy real for 44.5 million African-Americans will continue to vex U.S. foreign policy now, just as it has in the past. And, fair or not, America’s enemies will continue to use this discomfiting reality to poke, embarrass, and shame the superpower.

Carol Anderson

Foreign Policy

Carol Anderson is Associate professor of African-American Studies and History at Emory University. She is an op-ed project Public Voices Fellow and the author of Eyes Off the Prize: the United Nations and the African-American struggle for human rights, 1944-1955 and Bourgeois Radicals: the NAACP and the struggle for colonial liberation, 1941-1960.

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President Barack Obama discuss with Attorney General Eric Holder the situation in Ferguson, Mo., August 14, 2014. (White House Photo: Pete Souza)

Six years ago, Barack Obama’s election was going to usher in a new era of racial understanding.

That hasn’t happened. Few, if any, anticipated that the man whose election itself was historic would be in a constant lose-lose situation as president when it came to race.

The protests and violence in Ferguson, Missouri, following the police shooting of Michael Brown have crystallized a larger sense within the African-American community, and civil rights leaders say they feel they’re a long way from Grant Park and a lot closer to “here we go again” on the Trayvon Martin shooting.

“Things got somewhat better because the country felt proud of itself for electing him. But I certainly think they’re worse than they were on Jan. 20, 2009,” said National Urban League President Marc Morial. “There was a sense that the country had turned the corner. I think today there may be a sense that that progress has been a proverbial step forward and two steps back.”

The economic divide, accentuated by the recession, has only widened the racial divide — the number of African-Americans who lost their own houses during the mortgage crisis, among other factors, appears to have done more to shape where race relations stand than having the first African-American in the White House. In 1950, the workforce participation among young black men was 65.2 percent. In 2012, it was 35.7 percent.

That’s not helped by many neighborhoods — Ferguson included — remaining either white or black, with little interaction between them.

“There are so many communities where you still have persistent patterns of segregation,” said Tom Perez, the Labor secretary and the former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “It leads to a lack of understanding, and that is unfortunate, and that can have ill consequences.”

African-American and civil rights leaders say this tension has been heightened by conservatives’ opposition to Obama that they believe has been waged on racial grounds, along with measures like voter ID laws they say are meant to keep minorities from the polls.

No one expected Obama to change 400 years of legacy in a term and a half as president. But Obama took a very cautious approach in his first term, largely avoiding the topic, leading black leaders to complain that they were watching their gains erode under a president who took their support for granted. The outrage that caught the White House by surprise after he said police “acted stupidly” in Henry Louis Gates’ 2009 arrest only helped solidify the West Wing’s hands-off approach.

“He wanted to be perceived in a color-blind way, but the way he went about that was giving short shrift to African-Americans so that he wouldn’t be perceived as hung up on race,” said Paul Butler, a former DOJ prosecutor who’s now a professor at Georgetown Law. “One of the problems for people who don’t want to be perceived as hung up on race is that they end up obsessed with it.”

“These are flashpoints,” said Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen, discussing the recent incidents and the violence they’ve sparked. “The country is very, very fragile along the fault line of race.”

An Associated Press poll right before Obama’s reelection indicated racial prejudice had ticked up during his first term, showing that 51 percent of Americans expressed anti-black sentiments, compared with 48 percent in 2008, and 56 percent demonstrated implicit anti-black sentiments, compared with 49 percent four years earlier.

That sense appears to have been heightened in recent weeks with a string of high-profile deaths of minority men at the hands of police: Eric Garner in New York, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, and another man in St. Louis on Tuesday afternoon. Saturday, Brown’s parents were in New York for a major march protesting Garner’s choking — an incident that’s consumed passions there for weeks, albeit without the violence that erupted in Ferguson.

“There are probably more Fergusons out there. They just haven’t been sparked by this kind of incident yet,” said John Brittain, a civil rights lawyer and friend of Attorney General Eric Holder — who on his visit to Ferguson on Wednesday discussed his own history of race-motivated run-ins with the police, saying, “I understand that mistrust.

Obama, who’s been more openly and personally tackling racial issues over the last year, acknowledged Monday that the depth of the problems may have been more extensive than many people had considered, calling the “root causes” for the tension in Ferguson “a big project.”

“It’s one that we’ve been trying to carry out now for a couple of centuries. And we’ve made extraordinary progress, but we have not made enough progress,” Obama said.

The White House is very much aware that anything Obama says immediately gets filtered through the polarization of the country, and anything he says on race only more so.

Matthew Hughey, co-author of “Language, Race and the Republican Party in the Age of Obama,” is among those who say that Obama’s political opponents have trafficked in implicit racial language in attacking him, with all the suspicions about his birth certificate or lines like Newt Gingrich’s accusation that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mindset feeding on white anxiety.

“It is the same courting of white reactionary conservative fears, of using coded language,” Hughey said. “The 2008 election and the presence of a black first family in the White House allowed people to activate anti-black attitudes in nonracist terms.”

For Obama, Ferguson and the larger bubbling unrest is a huge potential political problem: He’s always been buoyed by strong African-American support, and should that start to slip, he’ll be in danger of an overall approval number low enough to usher him into political oblivion — after all, he won 95 percent of the African-American vote in 2008.

That has remained high, even in the wake of Ferguson, when Obama’s public comments have been muted but the White House’s behind-the-scenes outreach to black groups has been intense. In a CBS/New York Times poll out Thursday, 60 percent of African-Americans say they approve of Obama’s response, while only 35 percent of whites do. That’s compared with just a quarter of African-Americans who say they’re satisfied with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s response. And the criticism of Obama also broke down along party lines: 59 percent of Democrats approved, while 52 percent of Republicans disapproved.

In what Obama has said on Ferguson, he’s ended up in a familiar bind: People who feel racial issues haven’t been discussed enough expect him, as the first black president, to speak out more forcefully, and they are disappointed when he doesn’t, while people who feel that racial issues have been exploited tend to see anything he says on the topic as showing favoritism and overreach.

That’s become a factor exacerbating the racial divide, said Andra Gillespie, a former Democratic pollster who now studies black politics at Emory University.

“We didn’t discuss this stuff, but the moment of the African-American president brings what’s latent to the forefront, and now it’s a question of how we deal with it,” Gillespie said.

“That’s going to be the big takeaway of the Obama presidency: It takes more than one president to fix problems that are this entrenched and this long-standing. Not that there wasn’t progress, not that it wasn’t important, but we built up too much of a cult of personality around the president,” Gillespie said. “That was a bit naive on all our parts.”

Edward-Isaac Dovere

David Nather


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