Traveling to Africa is not like a visit to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom. You have to take vaccines for diseases that have almost been wiped from the face of the earth. You have to learn to close your doors tightly before you start sticking your tongue out for a lion in the middle of a safari. You have to learn to keep a low profile else a former Minnesota-based Somali, now heading an Islamic terrorist group somewhere in Africa’s forests, identifies you as an American.
If you have been to Africa before, you know it offers a unique experience. A visit to Africa is challenging even if the visitor is the President of the United States. It gets more complicated when the father of that American president is also an African.
If you have paid any attention to the ongoing visit of President Barack Obama to Africa, you would have noticed that the drama commenced even before Obama’s plane was loaded with water, milk, bread and cookies for the trip.
5,000 women in Nairobi, Kenya, were mobilized to demonstrate naked in protest against Obama’s support for gay rights across Africa. Such protests are reserved for leaders like Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa of Central African Republic, Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire and Sani Abacha of Nigeria - leaders who failed to listen to the voice of reason.
Americans who are traveling with Obama and hoping to observe the demonstration of these women the way King Mswati III of Swaziland does during Reed Dance will be in for a shock. The women of Nairobi will not be putting up virgin dance show for Obama to enjoy. These demonstrators will be mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. And they won’t be holding sticks or holding bush knives. Their waists and necks won’t be dotted with colorful beads. Their ankles won’t be decorated with rattling anklets. They won’t have sheepish smiles on their faces. The women will be angry and wailing. Some may cover their bodies in ashes.
It is not a sight Obama will like to see. So, if Michelle Obama is worried about her husband being exposed to the King Mswati (III)’s kind of maiden dance that fuels the king’s ever-growing appetite for new and younger wives, she should stop worrying now.
It is not just going to be bad news for Obama as he visits his father’s home country. This time, with all the paraphernalia of the President of the United States, he may now find the place his umbilical cord was buried before he was placed in a basket and dropped in the Indian Ocean that brought him to Hawaii. Now, one thing that will not happen this time around is that, unlike last time Obama visited Kenya, he will not have to carry his grandmother’s farm produce along unpaved laterite road.
In fact, we hope that Air Force One has enough cargo space in it for Obama to bring back 50 cows, 70 sheep and 30 goats. Oh, yeah. The Kenyan lawyer who has been patiently waiting for Malia, Obama’s daughter, to come of age, is ready to fulfill the terms of the proposal that he made in May through the Kenyan Newspaper, The Nairobian. The man has not had a girlfriend since he saw a picture of the then nine-year-old Malia in 2008. He will personally lead his flock of cows and goats and sheep to President Obama’s hotel for the traditional dowry payment. There would be dancing and sharing of ground tobacco, otherwise called snuff.
I don’t need to tell Obama this but, whatever he does, no matter how emotionally charged the marriage ceremony becomes, he must not drink any of the locally brewed alcohol that they serve in Kenya. Whether it is called "changaa" or "kumi kumi," he should stay away from them. A bottle of Tusker beer with the young man will be enough.
Now Obama is not just going to his father’s homeland, he will also be going to Ethiopia. Ethiopia will give Obama a different kind of challenge. In Ethiopia, Obama will compete with another man who was once regarded as a god. I mean Haile Selassie, the late Emperor of Ethiopia. Smart people will compare the two and some will point out that Ethiopia is still recovering since Haile Selassie was overthrown as if to imply that America will suffer after Obama leaves office.
As the only African country that defeated European colonial powers during the Scramble for Africa, Obama will have to be careful to avoid apologizing for colonialism and what it did to Africa when he speaks to the African Union in Addis Ababa. Another thing to avoid is to try that his power handshake with some old African leaders, some of whom were in power when Obama was still memorizing his ABC in a primary school in Indonesia. And whatever he does, he should not hug those men or he will be setting himself up for slaughter by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and the folks at Fox News.
As is common in trips like this, Obama will get the chance to visit tourist sites. I hope he goes to the world’s hottest settlement in Dallol. When he gets there, he can actually leave the speaker of the US House of representative, John Boehner, there. Boehner’s skin will turn permanently orange in Dallol’s average temperature of 94 F heat. At the largest cave in Africa, in Sof Omar, Obama can hide his real birth certificate that he retrieved from his grandfather’s home in Kenya. Nobody will ever go in there to look for it in another century.
Now, about that electricity that Obama promised Africa during his visit last year, he should know that there is still darkness across Africa. As our ancestors say, if a snake fails to display its venom, children will use it to tie firewood. Thank God for a true son of Africa, Akon. He is not just talking the talk, he is doing something to bring electricity and with that, light to Africa.
And just in case Africa fails to thank Obama for the help in containing Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, he should not take it personally. An African proverb says that, if a wife decides to make the soup watery, the husband will learn to dent the foofoo before dipping it into the soup.
As this will be Obama’s fourth visit to Africa as President, he is no longer a stranger to the land. So, he should not be surprised if some African leaders, especially those who are in trouble with the West, offer him their daughters as second wife. I mean, Obama’s grandfather had more than one wife and his father had more than one wife, too. So, there is nothing new or strange there. He just has to prepare the minds of his American delegation who do not understand culture, high culture, very well.
Whatever he does, Obama must know that a man does not reject a wife given to him. It is a cardinal sin in African culture.
Enjoy your trip, Mr. President.