President Obama with African leaders at a White House Summit in 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
I thought I would begin this article with something about Barack Obama’s African heritage. But Emmanuel Macron adeptly slid himself into the story. You see, Mr Macron gave a speech in New York during a side event of the UN General Assembly organised by the Gates Foundation back in September.
In the speech, the part-time President of France and full-time enthusiastic purveyor of Malthusian ideas about Africa’s population, suggested that Africa’s large population was due to the continent’s women not being perfectly educated. He confidently postulated that Africa’s fertility is not “chosen fertility,” whatever that means.
I do not wish to add inordinately to the backlash Mr Macron deservedly got himself for his pompous comment. However, being an African, I am aware that the things said in events like this by men like him end up affecting my sisters and me. I am duty-bound to say something in response.
Modern Western leaders have maintained an irritating preoccupation with Africa’s fecundity. To them, it is the root of the continent’s woes. And so, whenever they gather in these global side-shows, they do little apart from plotting ways to trim us down to a more manageable number. They convince themselves, using truly Olympian leaps of logic, that this is what Africa needs to jump into the club of rich countries.
I must express, most emphatically, the offence I take at this shameless pelvic politics directed against Africa. The unrelenting fixation on the number of countrymen I am allowed to have is demeaning. The idea that a large African population is unsustainable is a dangerous one. In few places is it truer that “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”
While the young people of Ethiopia fought for their freedom under an overbearing government, Western leaders cooperated with that same government to sterilise them and their parents. While half of Rwanda’s people had trouble securing basic healthcare, global busybodies pioneered the use of drones to deliver contraceptives and condoms to remote parts of the country.
If you have noticed, I am no longer talking about Emmanuel Macron. The examples I have given had nothing to do with him. He was yet to move into the Elysee when they happened. His recent foot-in-mouth moment has been a most unwelcome distraction (it shouldn’t be; Mr Macron has earned quite the reputation for spouting gaffes at every turn).
No, these, and many more “services” like them, were the gifts of Barack Obama, one of our own, who rose up the ranks of Western power while we cheered him on. We should have taken the time to know him before ever a throat opened in ululation. Aside from being an inspiration for rising as high as he did, he did little good for Africa. In fact, his effect on Africa’s public morality and regard for human dignity was a complete mess.
One of Obama’s first executive actions as president was to rescind the Mexico City Policy. The policy was instituted by President Ronald Reagan to prevent USAID, purse-string-holder of the largest governmental aid coffers in the world, from funding organisations that promote or provide abortion outside the US (mostly in Africa).
One would think that President Obama, who stood out as much for his African heritage as for anything else, would better understand how much the Mexico City Policy helped African women and the healthcare organisations that wanted to carry out their work in accordance with African views on the worth of every human life.
Instead, Cousin Barry strolled into the White House, unpacked his bags, got his soles used to the carpets, then sat down to sign an executive order rescinding the policy. Within three days. It was greeted with jubilation along the corridors of the culture of death. Organisations like Marie Stopes International, the largest player in the abortion game across Africa, joyfully ran to the bank.
For the eight years Barack Obama ruled, these organisations spread their tentacles across Africa, wreaking havoc in the lives of many women, and bringing to an abrupt stop the hearts of millions of African babies. All this on a continent where abortion remains largely illegal (even unconstitutional). Just days before Obama’s term ended, it emerged that MSI had even instituted quotas for its abortionists to fulfil.
But Obama’s efforts to erode Africa’s values did not stop at his commitment to reduce the number of people who would profess such values. It was during its presidency that the American government made it a policy to tie its foreign policy to the promotion of so-called LGBT rights. On his maiden trip to Kenya as President, he did all he could to push us onto the bandwagon. In short, Obama’s presidency was disastrous for Africa.
Ever since his term ended, his successor has rolled back much of the vanguard of his culture war on Africa. Donald Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, to the chagrin of the foot soldiers of this war. He has left the Europeans (the likes of Emmanuel Macron) alone, with the me-too support of Canada, to continue the patronising practice of trying to trim down Africa and erode its values.
It is a paradox that it has been left to a man who has used the word “shithole” to refer to African countries, a man who could not pronounce “Namibia” properly, whose wife has just finished sauntering across the continent under a pit helmet, to protect the lives of Africa’s unborn and the dignity of its women. But such are the times.
Donald Trump might have only a cursory interest in Africa, but his policies are turning out to be far better for the continent than anything we ever got from Cousin Barry.
Mathew Otieno writes from Nairobi, Kenya