By Raynard Jackson
President Obama has concluded his three-country tour of Africa. He visited Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania. Most presidential trips overseas have a pre-determined outcome: to sign an agreement, to promote a foreign policy objective, or to reward an ally, etc. Not so in this instance.
Obama seems to be living up to the title Newsweek magazine gave him last year, “First Gay President.” I am usually very measured when I write about our presidents out of respect for the office. But, I must confess, that President Obama was a total embarrassment on his trip to Africa.
Obama and his staff were told in no uncertain terms not to discuss homosexual entitlements when in Africa (these messages were communicated through diplomatic back channels). But, that’s exactly what Obama did. During his first stop to Senegal, Obama began to lecture President Macky Sall on homosexual entitlements during their joint press conference.
Obama referenced the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on homosexuality, “not simply a victory for the LGBT community but also a victory for American democracy…so my basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to how the law treats you, how the state treats you – the benefits, the rights and the responsibilities under the law – people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally, and the good news is it’s an easy principle to remember.”
To President Sall’s credit, he provided a sharp retort: “Senegal, as far as it is concerned, is a very tolerant country which does not discriminate in terms of inalienable rights of the human being. We don’t tell anybody that he will not be recruited because he is gay or he will not access a job because his sexual orientation is different. But we are still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality. I’ve already said it in the past, in our cabinet meeting it is Senegal’s option, at least for the time being, while we have respect for the rights of homosexuals — but for the time being, we are still not ready to change the law.
“But of course this does not mean that we are all homophobic. But the society has to absolve these issues. It has to take time to digest them, bringing pressure to bear upon them, on such issues. It is just like the capital punishment. In our country, we have abolished it for many years. In other countries, it is still the order of the day, because the situation in the country requires it. And we do respect the choice of each country. But please be assured that Senegal is a country of freedom and homosexuals are not being prosecuted, persecuted. But we must also show respect for the values and choices of the other Senegalese people.”
Even in the country of Obama’s father, Kenya, there were some harsh words for Obama. Deputy President William Ruto told Obama to “respect Kenyans” and to refrain from criticizing their belief that homosexuality is a sin. He said, “No one should have any worry that Kenya is a God-fearing nation…President Obama is a powerful man, but we trust in God as it is written in the Bible, that ‘cursed is the man who puts trust in another man.’”
One of Kenya’s most influential religious leaders went ever further. Cardinal John Njue, president of the Kenyan bishops’ conference, said, “Let him forget and forget and forget…I think we need to act according to our own traditions and our faiths... I don’t think God was making a mistake when he created Adam and Eve and told them what to do…we must be proud of who we are. Those who have already ruined their society cannot come here to teach us on what we should do.”
There are 54 countries on the continent of Africa and in 38, homosexuality is illegal. The continent is very conservative in their values and morals. So, Obama’s comments were made with the full knowledge of how Africa would respond. I guess you could call it Obama’s Sister Souljah moment.
Obama’s comments were given with premeditation. It was no accident that he has nominated five people who are openly homosexual as ambassadors during the month of June (homosexual pride month). The countries are: Dominican Republic, Australia, Denmark, Spain, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
I am very ashamed that a sitting president would go to an ally’s country and insult their values and morals just to kowtow to 2 percent of the U.S. population. If Obama would spend a fraction of the time that he spends legitimizing homosexuality around the world focusing on the Black unemployment rate or the murder rate in Chicago, maybe these issues would not continue to devastate our community.
Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his Web site, www.raynardjackson.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at raynard1223.