Three months ago I pointed out in “Self Determination: New US Africa Foreign Policy basis: “hiding in plain sight”? (http://icedjamb.com/node/30122981/friends_family?fb_comment=30122981) that President Barack Obama is setting up and practicing / implementing a new US foreign policy for Africa and it is based on Self Determination; and that it may not be obvious to world citizens. His Middle East Foreign Policy speech today (May 19 2011) takes any remaining veil off and confirms that analysis.
While the speech and articulated policy show clarity and consistency, responses to such are expected to be varied. In an ironic way, it may well be that a US foreign policy which attracts attack and criticism from all sides and praise by many—all at the same time—is in fact truly in the best interest of the US: it panders to none and does not play favorites, as previous policies were wont to, thus removing, at last, any vestiges of self-indicting hypocrisy.
It is to be pointed out again that Self Determination can take at least two major forms, and Obama’s Foreign Policy recognizes this. The first form applies in Sudan-South Sudan dyad where a people can apply a self-deterministic decision to unilaterally leave a state wherein such a people could not get along for any number of reasons. This leads to a split of the country, with Independence and full sovereignty for the departing people and their nation. Obama’s administration was quite instrumental in seeing the Sudan-South Sudan Self Determination process through to completion and fruition where other interested parties and stakeholders had appeared to lose will and mettle. South Sudan’s Independence Day is scheduled for July 9 2011.
The recent rumblings and revolt in North Africa and Middle East represent the other form of Self Determination. Here, it is the people, acting monolithically, against their own state, demanding a change of regime and governance in demonstration of their Self Determination right to be in direct and full charge of the people’s own destiny, in spite of the state. This played out starting in Tunisia and Egypt while spreading to other Arab countries. Initially hesitant, Obama’s administration quickly found its stride and consistency in due course by switching from the wonted tradition of supporting despotic leaders and their governments to now supporting the people and their Self Determination rights.
Besides accommodating and supporting both forms of Self Determination, this new US policy also understands that things may not go smoothly, yet it shows courage, determination and hope. “…Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be…”, while emphasizing that Self Determination is a non-violent revolt, and violence may not and should not be visited by the state on citizens in peaceful protest.
Thus, we are witnessing a deep-rooted and deliberate commitment by the US to Self Determination as the underpinning of her Foreign Policy. While this is specifically applied to the Middle East and North Africa by Obama’s speech, we know of no reasoning why the US should want to deviate from that for the rest of Africa. “The rest of Africa” has hitherto received the tepid and trite “free and fair elections” effete and distracting policy of futility which does not in any way equate to Self Determination or yield similar conversations and or outcomes, even as Africa roasts. This disarticulated, unimaginative and lazy policy led to the misadventures and confused but tragic (for the people) outings of the US, France and the UN in hapless Ivory Coast, a country which needs more of Self Determination than “free and fair elections” and Ouattara’s presidency. Soon, simmering Nigeria will come up for that Self Determination US Foreign Policy test. It is really here that this newfound US policy should neither falter, flounder nor fail; it simply can’t. Oh yes, Nigeria is on the radar screen and getting larger.
At last, it appears that the much awaited “new world order” might be starting to unfold, and it is Self Determination that is at once the driving force and the chassis. A tenacious, consistent and steady Self Determination agenda embedded in Foreign Policy such as Obama’s / US will certainly shape that new world order.
By Oguchi Nkwocha, MD.