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You are here:Home>>Archive>>Displaying items by tag: President Obama
Displaying items by tag: President Obama

The White House rolls out the red carpet for President Ali Bongo of Gabon

The White House is rolling out the red carpet today for President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, whose penniless West African regime is notorious for its human rights abuses and widespread corruption (hat tip: this eye-opening report by ABC News). In yet another display of extraordinarily bad judgment, the Obama administration is extending the hand of friendship to another prominent tyrant, just two days after Washington sided with Hugo Chavez and various Latin American despots against Britain in a declaration over the Falkland Islands by the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Needless to say, Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney struggled to explain why President Bongo has been accorded the honour of a White House visit, admitting to ABC News that he has a "less than sterling record". But, said Carney, it was still "very important" for Bongo to meet with the US president, because:

First of all, the president of Gabon is making reform efforts, which we support. Secondly … Gabon has been an important partner in some of the issues that are very important to American national security.

Gabon, with a population of only 1.5 million and a per capita income of just $1,438, has never been a key US "partner", as Carney ludicrously spins it, and as for "reform efforts", they are nowhere to be seen. But it does have a reputation for being a massive kleptocracy governed by a ruling family that has been in power for more than four decades, since 1967. According to UN consultant Jack Blum in an interview with ABC, the Bongo family and its cronies have "siphoned off 25 percent of the gross domestic product of the country… the people who are running the country are guilty of grand theft nation."


Human Rights watchdog Freedom House classifies Gabon as "not free", with a political rights score of 6 (on a scale of 1 at the top, and 7 at the bottom), and a civil liberties score of 5. As Freedom House points out, Gabon is a classic one-party state:

Gabon is not an electoral democracy. The 2009 presidential election was marred by irregularities, including allegations of vote rigging and intimidation of the press. The president is elected for seven-year terms, and a 2003 constitutional amendment removed the two-term limit imposed in 1991. The president has extensive powers, including the authority to appoint judges and dissolve the parliament.

And as the US State Department points out in its latest annual report, Gabon has an appalling human rights record:

The following human rights problems were reported: ritualistic killings; use of excessive force by police; harsh prison conditions and lengthy pretrial detention; an inefficient judiciary subject to government influence; restrictions on privacy and press; harassment and extortion of African immigrants and refugees; widespread government corruption; violence against women; societal discrimination against women, noncitizen Africans, Pygmies, and persons with HIV/AIDS; and trafficking in persons, particularly children.

Is this really the kind of "partner" the White House wants to cultivate? The decision by President Obama to host one of Africa’s worst despots is a sad reflection on the current US administration, whose dictator-friendly foreign policy, from Tehran to Khartoum to Libreville, is an embarrassment for the leader of the free world.

Nile Gardiner is a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst and political commentator. He appears frequently on American and British television and radio, including Fox News Channel, CNN, BBC, Sky News, and NPR.

Published in Archive
Wednesday, 11 May 2011 21:24


Lead Like Obama, Reach Impossible Goals, And Beat Your Competition

Despite the fact that this column is called "Witnessing Leadership," I wasn’t planning to write about the bin Laden operation and the leadership behind it – I figured there was no way such a column wouldn’t be seen as political sniping. I mentioned this to my teenage son, Greg, who like all teenagers is much smarter than his father, and Greg replied, "Come on, Dad? Really?" With my son’s chastisement burning in my ears, here goes:

When the news broke that the United States had succeeded in finding and killing Osama bin Laden, I immediately thought that it was the result of tremendous leadership. (Okay, truth be told, the first thing I thought was, "HOLY Mother of Pearl!" or words to that effect. Then I got a grip . . .)

Without knowing a single detail, I realized that getting bin Laden was a leadership triumph. After all, President George W. Bush had said we would get bin Laden, dead or alive, no matter how long it took. And then for more than seven years, Bush was unable to lead the way to success. Obama did it in less than three years. How did Obama lead successfully when Bush did not?

First, Obama understood the mission ("Get bin Laden") and the priorities that went with that mission. As a candidate in 2008, he said that if he had actionable intelligence, he would have the United States act alone in Pakistan. The other candidates (including his now-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton) all derided him as naive. He didn’t understand the geopolitical realities at play in the region. You can’t just act like that, they said. Well, as my son might say, "Uh . . . yeah, you can!"

Secondly, almost as soon as he became president, Obama ordered his new CIA director, Leon Panetta, to revitalize the agency’s search for bin Laden. The president made it clear that getting bin Laden was a priority, and that the CIA was to act accordingly. Panetta resurrected the CIA division tasked with finding bin Laden (it had been allowed to fade away under the previous administration). Everyone involved understood the president’s sense of urgency regarding this mission – even though the trail was almost 8 years old – and resumed the hunt with ferocity.

Cut forward about 18 months, as the CIA began reporting intelligence to the president on bin Laden’s possible whereabouts. Obama began working with the intelligence community and the military on scenarios for capturing or killing bin Laden. As the intel regarding bin Laden was solidified, the president analyzed the risks and decided how to handle them:

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 1:  In this handout image provided by The White House, President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the East Room of the White House on the mission against Osama bin Laden, May 1, 2011 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States had killed the most-wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden in an operation led by U.S. Special Forces at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Acting unilaterally in, in effect invading, Pakistan. Something that could be considered an act of war. Obama had said he’d do it, and now he backed up his words by doing it, accepting the risk of international fallout.

Missing Osama bin Laden – what if the intel was wrong? The president has said over and over that he felt the risk was worth taking for a chance at finding bin Laden. He assessed the odds as 55/45 and took the risk.

Killing bin Laden – the president’s orders for the final operation, the preparation for the observation of Muslin rites and the burial at sea, the later decision not to release photos – they indicate that all possible outcomes had been thoroughly considered and prepared for.

Committing the resources. Whether it was the number of helicopters or the number of Navy SEALS (who are absolutely the gold standard in bad asses) sent in, it seems obvious that Obama thought about President Jimmy Carter’s failure to commit the necessary resources in the disastrous Iraq rescue mission in 1980. This time there were enough helicopters, even though one failed, and enough men that they could fight off local military and/or police – and the president was heavily involved in those decisions.

Why should any of this matter to corporate leaders? President Obama showed the commitment and tenacity to finish off a 10-year hunt. That kind of commitment to the mission and tenacity might come in handy as business chiefs lead their companies out of this ugly, deep recession we’ve been stuck in.

Remember when Toyota and Nissan (then known as Datsun) first sold cars in America? When Honda was considered a motorcycle manufacturer? It took commitment and tenacity for those brands to push out of the econo-box ghetto, but they did. They had to commit tremendous resources, slowly expanding their product offerings and improving their quality to amazingly high standards. And they took major risks, building plants in America, gambling on the ability of American labor to produce cars of equal quality to those made with Japanese labor.

Remember when Apple introduced the graphic interface for computers and the mouse? There were enough rodent jokes to fill in the Grand Canyon. But Apple was committed to the task, risked its entire business model on the plan and . . . today virtually all computers use a mouse and a version of the graphic interface. That’s leadership.

So, how do you lead like President Obama?

Focus on the mission, understand the requisite priorities.

Commit to whatever it takes to accomplish the mission. If you’re unwilling to commit, find another mission.

Forget patience – be tenacious. Some missions have extremely long timelines. Patience doesn’t cut it. You have to go after your goals with ferocity.

Take the necessary risks – prepare for the downside.

And if there’s any possible way you can get Navy SEALS to help you, do it!

Geoff Loftus is a lifelong history buff and the author of "LEAD LIKE IKE: Ten Business Strategies from the CEO of D-Day", published by Thomas Nelson, Inc. the keynote speaker at the 2010 Eisenhower Legacy Dinner at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. A regular contributor to, and currently the Vice President of the Gregorian University Foundation and have been gainfully employed in business journalism and corporate communications for more than a quarter-century.



Witney W. Schneidman, an adviser on African affairs to President Barack Obama during the Presidential campaign spelled out Obama's cardinal policy objectives for Africa:

"Barack Obama will pursue three fundamental objectives on the continent. One is to accelerate Africa's integration into the global economy. A second is to enhance the peace and security of African states.
And a third is to strengthen relationships with those governments, institutions and civil society organizations committed to deepening democracy, accountability and reducing poverty in Africa."


Nigeria is the epicenter of African geo-politics, therefore a stable, healthy and prosperous Nigeria is good for Africa and the world. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa: Politically, culturally, economically and otherwise, resourceful South Africa notwithstanding, Nigeria overwhelms the continent. Nigeria is unique in Africa in the sense, that it has the requisite human and natural capitals to be making waves in economic development and scientific advancement in Africa. But intellectual lethargy especially the paucity of confidence embedded with self-doubt have dimmed its emerging light.

Nigeria’s nascent democracy is gradually losing its luster and vibrancy due to the tilting to plutocracy and institutional disfiguration, impelled by uncompromising politicians. For Nigeria to continue to be a front line nation in Africa, it must put her house in order. A strength tempered with humility with a responsibility to her continent must be Nigeria’s targeted self actualization. President Obama must shun all the diplomatic shenanigans and niceties and be forthright with Africa’s leadership and compel them to amend their ways and maximize their continent’s God giving potentials.

Peace and conflict resolutions

Nigeria must have quantifiable peace to enjoy steady economic progress. The most pressing is the issue of Niger Delta. Although Nigeria territorial integrity must be respected, Obama administration can work with Nigerian government providing logistic and confident building measures in negotiations with neglected communities in Niger delta. Also, The Obama administration must work with African Union in finding solutions to the cessation of conflicts and wars in the continent. Wars (especially internal strife) are ubiquitous in the continent. Some African governments and warmongers commit their resources to executing endless wars. The West must frown upon the sell of arms to these parties by checkmating their natives arms industries.

Africom as a security tool                                                                                                                                                                                 Africa is confronted with lack of internal security which becomes a deterrent force in economic advancement. Capital flight and low foreign investment are precipitate and ramification of insecurity.
With President Obama enormous social and political capital, he can do a better public relationship job of explaining and restreaming Africom.: Justify, Redirect or End it.

American government have set-up Africom - a military command for Africa, which is to secure peace and goodwill in Africa. Many African countries are skeptical of America’s real intention, fearing that Africom can become a tool to punish America’s foes in the region in the name of fighting terrorism. The unexpressed fear is that it could be used to control and manipulate internal policies and status quo of African nations.

America have to work succinctly to assiduously allay their fears and show to them the benefits of Africom. This must be done with goodwill and civility while respecting African territorial integrity . Peace and tranquility are good for business for all the parties concerned which can be achieved through dialogue and understanding. To this end, American diplomats in Africa have to embark on thorough enlightenment campaign.

Respect for Human Rights

The building blocks of democracy are liberty, freedom and justice. Nigeria cannot be democratic nation without liberty. Nigerians must live in the system of government that encourages freedom and justice. The respect for fundamental human rights must be instituted and adhered to; an environment that provides self-help, self-improvement and self-innovation must be encouraged. Only freedom can make these things possible and make free enterprise a reality, so that free people can create wealth and advance human dignity.

The Obama administration must encourage and support governance that accommodates checks and balances in Nigeria and indeed Africa. This will in turn provide accountability and respect for the populace. What Africa needs mostly include, elimination of dictators and socialist regimes, establishment of virile/free political platform and economy, rule of law and respect for individual rights. All these things do border on fundamental issues which foreign aid alone cannot redress. Until these issues are properly put right, the story of the optimum utilization of these billions of dollars from foreign aid will always remain a mirage.

Anti-corruption campaign and legislation
President Obama as the leader of the free world must support corruption elimination in Nigeria and Africa by helping local and international entities serious on the war against CORRUPTION in Africa. The responsibility of fighting corruption is too complex and gigantic to be left for one party. Both Africa and West must partake in the fight against corruption. The West must enact banking laws that will fish out bankers that accept laundered money and tainted wealth from corrupt African leaders and bureaucrats. Ill-gotten wealth must be returned to Africa without much ado, while the culprits must be exposed and prosecuted.

The West must work together with African governments on the war against corruption and bribery. Corporations and Transnational companies operating in Africa must not induce politicians and bureaucrats by bribes in their quest for contracts.
" African Union estimates that the continent loses as much as $148 billion a year to corruption. This money is rarely invested in Africa but finds its way into the international banking system and often into western banks. The proceeds of corrupt practices in Africa, (which the African experts group recommended in 2002 should be classified as a ‘crime against humanity’ because of its impact on ordinary people), are often laundered and made respectable by some of the most well known banks in the City of London or the discreet personal bankers of Geneva and Zurich."

Fair Trade for all Parties
The Obama administration must encourage fair and equitable trade with Nigeria and Africa. The giving of aid must not be the only means to defeat poverty and alleviate quality of life in Africa. Nigeria must be encouraged to rely less on oil but to diversify her economy.

The promotion of trade can be possible when concessions are made to emerging industries in Nigeria and Africa. The West can improve technological developments by investing in areas of science and technology that can sharpen the technical-know-how in the continent.

Obama’s America and the West must stand for fair trade at the World trade organization by conscientiously removing agricultural subsidies given to their own agricultural sectors that adversely affect the traffic of commodities from Africa.

Obama administration must not spoon feed Africans with depreciating aid and charitable donations but also compel them to comprehend that only trade and comprehensive reforms can be the panacea to poverty in Africa. Strategically, a wealthy and stable Nigeria can be a stabilizing force in Africa, and a wealthy Africa will apply her resources in resolving conflicts throughout the continent.

Mr.Emeka Chiakwelu is the Founding director/Principal policy strategist of Afripol Organization.Africa Political and Economic Strategic Center (Afripol) is foremost a public policy center whose fundamental objective is to broaden the parameters of public policy debates in Africa. To advocate, promote and encourage free enterprise, democracy, human rights, conflict resolutions, transparency and probity in Africa.


Published in Archive