The US vice-president’s agenda and visit to Africa and the people’s reaction

Screenshot 2023 04 08 At 7.46.47 Pm
Vice President Kamala Harris. (photo: courtesy of the White House).

 News this past week was dominated by the African tour of US vice-president, Kamala Harris. The following motives are mentioned: to stifle the growing sovereignty of China on the continent, to promote democracy in Africa and propose a policy that improves the situation of women. The aim to curtail the Chinese hegemony of the twenty-first century in Africa is certainly an important reason. For decades, the US was comfortably poised as the ruling superpower on the continent. Analyses show that the US was overtaken by China because of the hybrid political ideology that the country adopted in a strategic move. China, today, is neither a communist nor a capitalist country. Both ideologies are found in Xi Jinping’s country and have given China the upper hand over the US and European nations and Cuba that identify with one of those two camps. Of course, the non-aligned exist[ed] but the influence of that stance has dwindled have aligned themselves to the Left or the Right wing politics, over time. Ghana has proudly posted her non-aligned position under Nkrumah’s rule. Ghana is without doubt capitalist. The country invites investors, trades with many partners, and, unfortunately, allows herself to be duped in the process, with the profit in its industrialization and trade finding their way into the bank accounts of the ruling party’s faithful or the relatives of the president. Thomas Sheehy, who is introduced as an “Africa distinguished fellow at the US Institute of Peace and a veteran of Capitol Hill” explains in a podcast (3 April 2023) the silent and efficient manner in which China deposed the US in the influence contest over Africa: “20 years ago when the US passed a major Africa trade bill, the US was Africa’s largest trade partner. China, since then, has come to dwarf the US in terms of trade volume and certainly on the investment front, investing hundreds of billions of dollars in building African infrastructure while the US has largely been absent. The US is finally waking up slowly”. The US is now stressing that Africans should not be dependent on just Chinese investment but also need options with the US, European and Middle East countries. That is the rhetoric that the US is uttering, to justify their sudden interest in Africa’s partnership, especially at the economic level.

China is aggressively harvesting the “strategic materials” like cobalt, zinc, nickel which the energy transition is heavily dependent upon. Innumerable tons of minerals are shipped out of the country through practices like exporting the raw products (like the cobalt of Congo) to China for processing. The US claims to be helping African countries process these minerals locally and they identify the lack of basic infrastructure like roads, energy, ports, etc. as key blockades being faced in their cooperation with Africa.

Washington prides herself on her determination to remain in this long-term effort that is needed, for Africa to get some of the value added in their trade partnership. It does not take much knowledge of the history of US politics to detect the hidden agenda in this “benevolent” cooperation. They simply want to regain control over Africa. That will certainly not be an easy task since the Chinese involvement has produced very deep structures and a special apparatus that safeguards the Chinese influence and interests in Africa. By erecting Confucius Institutes in almost all tertiary institutions in Africa, providing free Chinese language classes, giving scholarships to young Africans for studies in China, etc., China put in place a policy that will contribute to maintaining the Chinese presence on the African continent. Like their European and American predecessors, China is now the colonial master in Africa. The Chinese have reached such a position with the implementation of capitalist communism, a new entry in the annals of political science.

The gender dimension of Kamala Harris’ journey (something that can be perceived in the presence of Tanzania – ruled by a woman acting president – on the list of countries visited) climaxed in Ghana, when she advocated the acceptance of the LGBTQ+.  Her words were “….my career has been to address human rights issues, equality issues across the board including the LGBT community and I feel strongly about the importance of supporting the freedom and supporting and fighting for equality among all people and that all people be treated equally. I want to say that this is an issue that we consider and I consider to be a human rights issue and that will not change”. The Ghanaian President, Akufo Addo’s answer to Harris was that the bill was going through the Parliament, and that the attorney general had found it necessary to speak to the committee about the constitutionality or otherwise of several of its provisions. He concluded that at the end of the process, he would “come in”. He assured all that the Parliament of Ghana, as it has done before “will show its sensitivity to human right issues as well as to the feelings of the population and will come up with the responsible response”. It might help to remember that Ghana is currently negotiating a loan from the IMF and the economy of the country is in very bad shape as the saying goes. During her visit, Harris pledged to assist Ghana with USD 100 million in technical aid. Many believe that Ghana’s weak economy accounts for the president’s weak response to Kamala Harris when she recommended the acceptance of the LGBTQ in the country.

Several Ghanaian politicians think that the country needs to address the following flails that bedevil her: poor health care, a very bad economy, an ailing education system and so on. They citizens implicitly mean that the issue of LGBTQ+ is not relevant in today’s Ghana. Another young political figure condemns the fact that the US is imposing their values on Ghana because homosexuality is not part of the Ghanaian culture. Let us bear in mind that like Ghanaians, many Africans are aware that gays and lesbians live among them but a general silence prevails around the issue. One of the detractors of Harris’ advocacy defends his position by saying that no African man defends or recommends polygamy in the West because it is practiced in his country, in Africa. Many voice their disappointment in President Akufo Addo who is generally eloquent, but fumbled when Kamala Harris put the issue of LGBTQ on the table. One of the most “official” and closely followed reactions is that of the Ghanaian Speaker in Parliament, Alban Bagbin, whose remarks were captured by the media under the caption “Ghana’s Speaker slams Kamala Harris, Akufo-Addo over LGBTQ+ remarks”. His view was seen to be important, because of his “political weight” in the country and also because he refutes the position and words of both the president of Ghana and the vice-president of the US. The speaker also points out the incoherence (not to say the lie) in President Akufo Addo’s response to Harris. Bagbin reiterated that the executant role of the president, which is a contrast to what the president made Harris to believe. The speaker is reported to have said: “There’s no way he [the president] can intervene. That answer he gave, wait until we pass it, and we will direct you to execute it, that is where you come in. In terms of the law which is part of the policy, we will finalize it, then the executive has the authority to implement it. Let’s get this clear”. There is very little probability for the LGBTQ bill to be passed in Ghana, because of the Christian reputation that the country carved for herself. Recent sources state that approximately 80 per cent of Ghanaians are Christians and the number keeps increasing. The strange coincidence and also stark contrast lies in the fact that while the LGBTQ+ practice is generally being rejected by Ghanaians, efforts are geared towards the “Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights” and the adoption of the “Ghanaian Family Values Bill” in the country.

Moussa Traoré is Associate Professor at the Department of English of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana.

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