In a historic speech at the AU, Obama spoke strongly against corruption, bad leadership and economic exploitation of Africa by foreign powers, without naming any countries.
He, however, sent a strong message to African leaders against extending term limits to cling to power indefinitely.
He said “Africa’s progress is at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end.
“No person is above the law, when a leader changes the rule midway, it leads to strife.’’
He dismissed other leaders who insist that they were the best to hold their countries together.
He added that “Burundi is tottering on the brink of civil strife after President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term was endorsed in a ballot that was deemed not credible.
“Democracy is not just formal elections, when journalists are put behind bars for doing their job, you have a democracy in name but not in substance,” Obama said.
He insisted that while Africa’s progress was clear with the continent moving toward an AIDS-free generation, the lack of democracy in most parts of the continent risked the gains the continent was making on several fields.
Obama then pledged Washington’s help to the AU, saying financing would be availed to improve the continental body’s strategic alliance with the UN.
The American leader also hailed Nigeria and Sierra Leone for advancing democracy in their countries.
He said “Nigeria witnessed a democratic transition, ushering in the new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.’’
Turning to Kenya, the U.S. President warned that the democratic gains made by the East African nation would not be sustained if it continued to put restrictions on the civil society.
Obama had met the Kenyan civil society as part of his Africa’s Young Leaders Imitative (YALI) in Nairobi on Sunday.
Kenya recently froze the accounts of non-governmental organisations it accused of funneling funds to terrorist groups without providing proof and also took steps to ban a few organisations.
President Obama started his speech, the first one ever by an American President, by calling for efforts to support Africa’s ongoing efforts to grow their economies.
“I stand before you as an American and to some as an African,” President Obama said, adding that Africa’s history showed clearly that every person deserved to be treated with dignity.
He said colonialism also skewed the economies of Africa in favour of the West.
“We must recognise Africa’s extra-ordinary progress, surging access to the Internet, mobile phones growth.
“Africa is on the move propelled by the partnerships of the world. Africa leads the way in sending children to school.
“But Africa does not need strong men. Africa needs strong institutions like the AU,” he stated to more applause.
Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, defended his efforts to deepen democracy during talks with the U.S. President.
Hailemariam, who was present during the historic address by an American President to the AU earlier, said efforts were being made to address human rights and democracy.
The prime minister said his country came from centuries of political oppression and had been through only two decades of democratisation efforts.
“We must have an honest conversation about democracy as friends, we have to make democracy better, we have to expand freedoms and broaden democracy. (PANA/NAN)