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Reflections on Biden’s repair, reconcile, reconstruct mission

BY: Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa
Joe Biden & Kamala Harris

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris take their oaths of office as President and Vice-President of the United States (US) of America at a time like no other in history. Many historians agree that not even the emergence of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933 during the great depression, compares.

They ascend the much coveted office as leaders of the free world at a time the world is in  untold turmoil, being ravaged by a debilitating COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only claimed more than two million lives, but continues to ruin the global economy, cause extreme hunger, increase unemployment, disrupt formal education and alter humankind’s way of life for good. 

Sadly, on the eve to taking office, the US lost a 400,000th life to COVID-19, as that nation becomes the most afflicted by the insidious pandemic.

The international image of the US is at an all-time low. Trump’s willful incitement of insurrection on the Capitol, which earned him a place in infamy and a second impeachment by the House, has delved a near mortal injury to the democratic credentials of the US. 

This has considerably whittled its soft power and undermined her moral authority and global leadership in helping to install democracy in many parts of the world, where the vestiges of dictatorship have not been fully exorcised. 

Pew

It is not as though the US was enjoying high favourabilities abroad before the sacrilegious assault on the citadel of democracy by Trump inspired far right nationalists.

In September 2020, a 13-nation Pew Research Centre survey showed that the US’s international image had plummeted to unrivaled depths hitherto unknown since the centre began polling on this topic some two decades ago. 

The publics surveyed at the time, viewed President  Trump more negatively than other world leaders including Putin and Xi.

The poor showing must have been occasioned by the withdrawalism, isolationism and unilateralism, which have characterised Trump’s foreign policy and which he championed with much verve from how he discarded the Paris Climate Change Agreement, his spats with NATO, the contempt with which he treated the Iran Nuclear deal, the sore neglect of the African continent, his trade wars with China and Canada that reverberated across many trading corridors, quitting UNESCO, abandoning the UN Migration compact all the way to the shocking storming out of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the midst of a pandemic.

Racism

It is also worth noting that Trump’s refusal to boldly confront institutional racism, which led to the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Tony McDade and many more, sparked domestic and international outrage leading to the Black Lives Matter movement becoming the most powerful and conspicuous mass movement of this era, as it staged impactful demonstrations in virtually every national capital and evoking memories of the civil rights movement Martin Luther King Jnr led in the 1950s and 60s.

Martin Luther King Jnr  who was remembered this week, had famously pointed out: “a riot is the language of the unheard.”

I recall how a statement I made in the Ghanaian Parliament on this odious matter last year received intense bi-partisan condemnation and a forceful demand for justice and concrete reforms.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris definitely deserve warm congratulations from the African continent, which bore the brunt of most of Trump’s isolationist, confrontational and erratic policies.

Transactional relations

As Ranking Member for the seventh Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, I have had cause to be critical and outspoken about fractious and deeply worrying seeming transactional bilateral relations under President Donald Trump and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

My basic thesis was that the Trumpadministration’s Africa strategy was neither positive nor effective.  

There has been extant scholarship and commentary on this matter, and there will doubtless be a lot more. As with every administration, there were highpoints and low-points in the relationship, but overall, it is my considered opinion that Mr Trump’s policies were bad for Africa, ECOWAS and Ghana.

African policy

President Trump’s African Policy will be remembered for his infamous impolite and unprintable description of countries on the continent, the travel bans, the thinly veiled insults to our leaders during his meetings with them in Washington D.C. and lately his disastrous interventions in the Nile Water crisis. 

He will go down as the first President since 1992 to never undertake a visitation to the continent even though Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt were pleased to host First Lady Melania in 2018 on her solo trip.

In the midst of the greatest period of insecurity, fuelled by islamic radicals, where global cooperation is the obvious logical strategy, Trump made a monumental mistake by dismantling tactical multilateral security cooperation.

Wave

A major area of concern as the United States and the entire international community has been distracted by other issues are the eroding gains of Africa’s 1990s wave of democratisation.

Of the almost 50 constitutions that were enacted by African nations during that period, at least 30 limited the number of terms a president could serve.

Unfortunately, since 2015, no fewer than 13 countries have sidestepped or weakened term limits, as noted by the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies. 

Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who claimed victory in last week’s election is only a much recent example of a dangerous trend which is fast becoming fashionable, but with deleterious consequences for a continent with weak democratic institutions, when contrasted with other jurisdictions such as Germany which could afford to have Angela Merkel in office for 15 years.

The writer is a third-term Member of Parliament in the Ghanaian Parliament representing the people of North Tongu.