While in Egypt, Obama reached out to the Muslim world and sought to change perceptions that America is at war with Muslims. His focus on Muslim/Arab relations while in Egypt, is a reflection of the ongoing war against terrorism. The tragedy of 9/11 transformed the way America relates to the Middle East, radical Islam, Muslims and perceived threats in general. Consequently, the Obama administration forwent an opportunity to emphasize the need for democracy, and chose instead to focus on transforming America's image and reputation.
Ghana's history of democratic elections since the transition from military rule is heralded as an African political success story. Unfortunately, Ghana is increasingly considered an "illicit producer of cannabis [and a] major transit hub for Southwest and Southeast Asian heroin." Yet, Ghana's oil deposits, though small in comparison to other top oil producers, make it a strategic energy partner for oil-hungry America. American owned oil company, Chevron, is building the West African Gas Pipeline which will run from the Niger Delta in Nigeria to Ghana, and the West African Gas Pipeline Company is headquartered in Ghana's capital, Accra. Considering America's need for oil, the importance of the energy- and resource-rich West African region, and Ghana's success at democracy, it is not surprising that Obama would visit. Yet, it would be a shame if during his July trip to Ghana, Obama failed to focus on the need for democracy across the continent. His popularity plus the fact that he is America's President gives him the capacity to empower pro-democracy activists and help in building a foundation for political reform in many African countries.
Although Middle East relations is a key issue requiring the utmost attention from the American government, Africa's strategic importance to the United States must not be ignored. For too long, America's relationship with Africa has unequal and plagued with inconsistency. The African continent has many growing economies, is a source of many essential natural resources and unfortunately, many people for whom true democratic representation could be very beneficial. Nevertheless, the reality is that Africans cannot wait on Obama or anyone else to help push the continent towards democracy and improved standards of living. It is upon Africans themselves to make that happen, despite the tribulations, natural and man-made, that stand in the way.
- The Glaring Omission