Obama's 21st-Century Imperialism on Display in Africa
Last month, the eyes of the world were on Africa as President Obama welcomed Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari to the White House and, for the first time as president, visited his father's home country of Kenya.
Reports indicate that Buhari and U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, as well as possible political and economic reforms for Buhari's struggling country. Similar discussions took place in Kenya.
While all seemed well on the public front, the reality is that both Buhari's and Obama's visits were used by the White House to promote what Pope Francis called "ideological colonization." This agenda was let slip just days before Buhari arrived in Washington, when the U.S. State Department indicated it would push the Nigerian government to redefine marriage.
According to the Nigerian Pilot, America's Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters that "[a]s a policy, we will continue to press the government of Nigeria, as well as other governments which have provided legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community."
Thomas-Greenfield defended the pressure, saying it was not international interference in Nigeria's domestic affairs, but rather is "very much a work in progress...I think you will agree with me that the law in Nigeria really went far in discriminating against this community but also people who associate with them. So, we will continue to press the government, to press the legislature to change these laws and provide human rights for all Nigerian people regardless of their sexual orientation."
Across Africa, millions of people face starvation, war, oppression, poverty, and death due to a lack of basic aid. For decades, the United States has provided myriad forms of aid designed to help nations surpass these problems.
Under the Obama administration, however, humanitarian aid has often come with a price tag: Abandoning traditional values, especially those related to contraception, abortion, and marriage.
In 2011, Obama issued a memorandum that directed all U.S. embassies worldwide to promote LGBT rights, which he said were "central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights."
"Under my Administration, agencies engaged abroad have already begun taking action to promote the fundamental human rights of LGBT persons everywhere," he said.
That same year, the administration made aid to Nigeria dependent upon its not enacting the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act. And before she stepped down as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton compared same-sex relationships to race and sex in a speech that left African leaders furious.
Last year, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both suggested that Africa's war-torn, impoverished nations could attract economic and development aid from the West by becoming more gay-friendly.
This is social engineering at its finest, but it is not limited to redefining marriage. Contraception and abortion policies -- euphemized as "family planning" -- are also pushed upon Nigeria, whose citizens have rejected these mandates, which they consider harmful anti-women policies.
Again, this "ideological colonization" is not limited to Nigeria. During his visit to Kenya, Obama publicly lectured president Uhuru Kenyatta on his nation's laws against same-sex sexual relationships. According to CNN, sexual relationships between males over 14 is illegal, and punishable by as many as 14 years in prison.
This is the same administration that has spent substantial political capital on a deal with Iran that includes scant reforms in that dictatorial, terrorist-supporting nation, and opened relations with Cuba despite requiring few, if any, political reforms from the Castro dictatorship.
African leaders have long opposed Obama's 21st-century imperialism, especially religious leaders. In October, Ignatius Kaigama, the Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria - whose diocese is in the heart of the area affected by terrorist organization Boko Haram - and Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Ghana told me that they were tired of international pressure to legalize gay marriage.
The Nigerian prelate explained, "Marriage is between a man and a woman... even outside of scriptural support, our culture tells us that, nature tells us that."
And despite threats of denial of much-needed aid, he says, Africans will not capitulate to the demands. "These are our cultures, and we're not going to compromise over them."
Former Population Research Institute Media and Research Coordinator Anne Morse, who is beginning a doctoral program on population studies, was recently in Kenya. An observation she made on Facebook is instructive:
"Dear President Obama," wrote Morse, "[please] justify why--for every dollar USAID spends on water and sanitation in Kenya--it spends TWELVE dollars on family planning." Morse noted that she "[had] seen 4 advertisements for condoms today, but hasn't had a hot shower since Sunday."
The worst example of America's new-age imperialism is found in the growing evidence that President Obama purposely withheld aid to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram. While Buhari's predecessor has been accused of refusing U.S. aid to fight Boko Haram, what has been less reported is that the refusal came in part because the United States demanded Nigeria change its laws on marriage.
These accusations aren't just coming from Catholic bishops. A former U.S. Congressman, a Pentagon Army spokesperson, a Nigerian official, and the Nigerian Ambassador to the United States have all confirmed this is the case. To quote Ambassador Adebowale Adefuye in his statement to the Council on Foreign Relations, "the U.S. government has up till today refused to grant Nigeria's request to purchase lethal equipment that would have brought down the terrorists within a short time."
Nigerian-American Winnie Obike, a Ph.D. candidate in political communications at the University of Maryland, told me that she is "appalled by the Obama administration's foreign policy objectives for the African continent."
"It is ironic that a president who has passionately apologized for America's 19th and 20th century imperialism has adopted a twenty-first century imperialism toward Africa by forcing nations to change their beliefs on marriage, abortion and contraception in exchange for basic humanitarian aid," said Obike, who was the Minority Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota for Marriage Campaign.
"Nigeria and other African nations need humanitarian aid and help fighting terrorist groups like Boko Haram, not the West's declining values," said Obike. "I urge President Buhari not to compromise traditional values in exchange for foreign aid."
In 2009, President Obama was given a Nobel Peace Prize because many hoped he would lead the world to greater peace and security. With less than 18 months left in his time in office, he can finally earn the award by setting aside his own ideology and focusing on the real aid needed by Nigerians, Kenyans, and many other Africans.