By Kavuma Kaggwa
People will always judge you on what you build not what you destroy
The whole world is still focused on President Barack Obama, the man who made a political miracle by becoming the first Black President of the United States of America in 2008 and is just a few months into his second term. Following an eight-day, three state tour of Africa that stated on June 27, the attention on Obama has this time shone a spotlight on his legacy for the Dark Continent. Obama’s ancestors, the black people were taken to America as slaves several centuries ago and his return to the continent, as the ruler of the most powerful nation on earth is symbolic.
I have observed that people all over the world have special interest in President Obama. Besides naming their children `Obama’ or `Barack’, as happened in Kenya, Uganda and many African countries, people want to know what he has said. They want to know the policy statements he has made concerning America, Africa, the Middle East and the world. In my area I have seen people who are happy and excited when he appears on television screens at the time of world news.
People, especially ladies and children, admire his smart navy blue suits and the way he walks in a highly dignified style.
For people who are learning the working of democracy, the way he moved all over America; introducing himself to electorates, and winning their hearts and minds will always be remembered.
President Obama has made many important statements on democracy, world affairs, people’s welfare, and the rule of law and human rights which is advanced civilization. Soon after his election in 2008, he made a wonderful speech when he was in Cairo, which was absolutely in line with the present day Africa. President Obama said: “People will always judge you on what you build not what you destroy”. The people of Africa eagerly waited for him to visit all African countries, if possible, especially Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. That might never come to pass. The more crucial issue, therefore, has become what President Obama could do and bequeath to Africa as the legacy of his administration. What can he do for Africa which we Africans will keep in our hearts forever?
I knew President Obama’s father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, quite well during my days in Kenya. He was of the Luo tribe from Kogelo village in Luoland, Western Kenya near Lake Victoria.
As young East African Executives working in various companies in Nairobi we had a popular meeting place, where we used to meet on Saturdays for a drink surrounded by the beautiful East African Airways airhostesses. That place was called “The Rendezvous Bar and Restaurant”, located on Kimathi Avenue where there is now the Nation Centre, home of the Nation Media Group.
The man who was running that place was a Muganda; Prince Mawanda (not the late George Mawanda of Salama Munyonyo) who was living in exile in Kenya after the May 24, 1966 Buganda Crisis.
Barrack Obama senior had his own way of walking into a room, smartly knocking his shoes, smoking an English pipe or a cigarette, and drawing the attention of everybody around.
Barrack Obama who was a brilliant economist in the government of Kenya would speak with a deep voice announcing his arrival; “Obama has arrived”. Next he would say “everybody please have a drink on me until you leave this place”.
With such generosity in his ancestry, the people of Africa are waiting to know what President Obama will do for Africa.
I have one proposal which I would be grateful for the American Embassy in Kampala, and other people concerned, to convey to the President in Washington. It is simple; President Obama should set up a `Barack Obama Foundation for Africa’.
This foundation should build and manage six universities across Africa in the following way.
Barack Obama University – East Africa
This University should be built on the hills over-looking Kisumu city, and I am sure the government of Kenya and the people can acquire land in that area for the university. This will be the university for the people of East Africa.
2. Barack Obama University – Southern Africa
This university should be built near Lusaka city. I am sure the government of Zambia can easily acquire land for this purpose. Zambia, as I know this country, is very suitable for this university because Africans from other African countries can move freely without problems of xenophobia.
Barack Obama University – Sudan
This university should be built in Juba, to cater for the black people of the now independent South Sudan who have suffered (in many ways) since the independence of the original Sudan in 1955 and have never enjoyed the fruits of independence. This University will take in students from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Chad and Central African Republic.
Barack Obama University – North Africa
This university should be built in Tunisia or in the Kingdom of Morocco; the two countries which I can describe as liberal-minded and can welcome African Arabs from the neighboring countries of North Africa including the northern part of Sudan.
Barack Obama University – Central Africa
This University should be built in Congo Brazzaville, a French speaking country, to educate Africans from the French speaking countries of Central and West Africa.
Barack Obama University – West Africa
This University should be built near the city of Kumasi, in the Ashanti region of Ghana. I am sure the King of Ashanti and the people of that Kingdom can willingly offer enough land to build on the university. This university will be for the Africans from the English speaking countries of West Africa.
I personally do not see anything else that President Obama can give and do for Africa which will be better and everlasting than building these universities across Africa as I have stated above. If he builds them, then the African people will always proudly say: “Look, Africa produced a son, Barack Obama, who was the first black President of the United States of America, and he built these universities on the continent of Africa for Africans, during the eight years he was President of that Great Nation”.
Finally I will always remember what he said in Cairo on March 6, 2009 – “People will always judge you on what you build not what you destroy”.
J.M Kavuma-Kaggwa is an elder from Kyaggwe County in Mukono District