Bayanda Mzoneli

About Bayanda Mzoneli

Bayanda Mzoneli is a public servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

Before today, I would have accepted being labelled as an Obama critic. When Obama won the US election, I was one of the few people I know who viewed the celebrations of those who could not hold themselves as extremely exaggerated.

At the time of the Obama victory, my view was that the changes in government in the US had never fundamentally altered their posture in international relations. The umbilical cord between the US and Israel took precedence above multiple multilateral decisions of the UN on Palestine. The unilateral sanctions on the Cuban Revolution had remained throughout the successive US governments. The stifling of development in Africa through Structural Adjustment Policies and other instruments of trade relations had been persistently sustained. The imperialist footprint of the US had been expanded and mostly accompanied by neocolonial tendencies. The accumulation and evolution of US lethal weapons had continued to a point where they could not resist the temptation to test them on real human beings. As such, even though I appreciated the victory of US election by a black man, I could not be persuaded that anything will change fundamentally.

I then opted to observe the evolution of Obama’s administration to note if there are any fundamental changes from the archaic and asphyxiating US policies.

I was astounded by his drastic policy statements he made as soon as he took office and the period after that. As early as 2 days after his inauguration Obama signed an Executive Order on the Closure of Guantanamo Bay. This Order was signed on the same day as another Order that relates to the Lawful Interrogation of detainees.

In addition to such shifts in government policy, he also;

  • announced the removal of Barriers to Responsible Scientific Research Involving Human Stem Cells
  • condemned the payment of bonuses to Executives of companies in need of government bailouts.
  • expressed the intention to withdraw troops from Iraq
  • signed a bill on national health insurance for poor children
  • signed an Executive Order promoting union participation by workers
  • and many other progressive orders
  • But what ultimately persuaded me to fully acknowledge that his administration is different is the giant leap he made on foreign policy through the speech he made in Egypt today. The speech follows an election promise he had made of improving the US relations with the Muslim world.

    It is in this speech that for the first time in history a US presidents explicitly states, “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements[in Palestinian territory]. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.” Elsewhere in the same speech Obama admits, “And any nation – including Iran – should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.” He further acknowledges, “Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future – and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. Iraq’s sovereignty is its own.”

    It is such courage and boldness that convinces me that the Obama administration marks the reconfiguration of history as we know it. It assuages the world from the burden of saturated international relations that have caused much suffering including to the people of the US. It necessitates that international relations textbooks be rewritten.

    One can only hope that by the time Obama leaves US government, the world will definitely be a better place than he found it. The contents of his Egypt speech and other speeches should immediately express themselves practically in the international fora and relevant arena. The US should partner with the majority of world countries in supporting the restructuring of the UN, in particular the UN Security Council which it’s structure has long passed its sell-by date.

    The progressive orientation of Obama’s leadership should expand it’s frontiers to reach beyond political fora. It should go as far as altering world trade relations in respective fora, such as WTO, G8, WEF and others. It should relieve the world of market fundamentalism that has perpetuated much agony on the majority of the people’s of the world.

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