Obama doesn’t deserve the honour

2013-12-16 10:00

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President Barack Obama of the US was awarded the Nobel peace prize on October 9 2009, nine months into his first term.

Alfred Nobel dictated in his will as to what kind of person should receive the award. Accordingly, he counselled that the prize be conferred on a person who “shall have the greatest benefit on mankind”.

Fast-forward to 2013 at the memorial service of Nelson Mandela, when Obama was shockingly allowed to speak (on what basis only the heavens know) and receive his second most important award, equal to or even greater than the Nobel peace prize: an opportunity to eulogise Mandela.

Obama entered the White House through the slogan “change we can believe in”. For a minute, people “believed”. And when he received the Nobel prize in nine months, people, at least in the progressive world, started to doubt their belief because Obama’s brand of “change” merely showed itself to be continuity.

After his first term, informed by experience rather than sentiment, the euphoria around the first black US president began to wane. And so did Obama’s lyrical and oratorical “genius”.

Barack Obama delivers his speech at the Nelson Mandela memorial earlier this week. Picture: AP

The reasons are simple and plenty, but I will cite a few:

»?Whereas Mandela was a prisoner of conscience, Obama and his administration continue to imprison people across the world and continue to blacklist Robben Islanders to this day. We continue to have prison hells like Guantanamo Bay, along with detained Palestinian freedom fighters.

»?Whereas Mandela was the face of peace and humanity, Obama betrays his 2008 “change we can believe in” message. In 2011, he added another imperial war in Libya and was recently salivating at the prospect of invading Syria. All of these actions have sought to further militarise diplomacy and create more wars than peace.

As a result, anti-US sentiment increases globally and ordinary Americans, with whom we share a common humanity, are increasingly insecure in their homeland.

»?Finally, whereas Mandela championed freedom of speech, association and belief, the freedoms of Americans are rapidly decreasing daily. Edward Snowden, the exiled US intelligence whistle-blower, is much more like Mandela than Obama. And then Obama has the gall to say: “We, too, must act on behalf of justice.”

Well, here is a man whose actions speak louder than his words, encouraging us to “act on behalf of justice”. By “acting”, does he mean conducting drone attacks on innocent civilians?

Is that the action he calls for? Is that his sense of “justice”?

Sadly, our people cheered for him at the FNB Stadium on Tuesday and our uncritical media splashed pictures of him all over their front pages the next day, portraying him as a hero, a friend of Mandela and as a voice of reason.

That’s a scandal of unimaginable proportions.

So in the end, both the Nobel Committee and the South African Cabinet were monumentally wrong: neither Obama nor the US government deserve the honour to eulogise Madiba.

We elevate people to the position of speaking at Mandela’s funeral on the basis of history, sharing trenches in the struggle for freedom, the positioning of South Africa in global politics and as a progressive force in a humane world we are constructing for future generations.

»?Maimela is a researcher at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection

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