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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

An African Big Man Comes To The Biden White House - 'Black Is Beautiful', Said The President

Charles M'bele was the longtime ruler of a central African country and had no intention of leaving.  Like Mobutu of the Congo a generation before, M'bele was the darling of the West because of the vast mineral wealth of his country. In Mobutu's day it was copper, today it is rare earths, those minerals without which cell phones and computers cannot operate.  American and European leaders overlooked his autocratic rule, or at least accepted it as the price for doing business and because he kept the insurrectionist factions always in their barracks.  

Life in the country was miserable, a sink hole of corruption, crime, and destitution.  M'bele had siphoned every last penny of foreign aid to his cousins, loyal supporters, and most of all to his Swiss bank account.  It was reported that he was worth over $10 billion and that, his critics noted, was a gross underestimate. 

He, like all big men in Africa was adept at keeping civil order, encouraging the West with promises of elections and judicial reform, building a bridge here and there, and speaking eloquently about world peace and cooperation at the United Nations.  He was a symbol of what Africa could be with decisive, forward-thinking leaders like him. 

Recently, as part of his strategy to secure more untied funding from the United States, he called national elections, rigged every last polling place, surrounded them with Tonton Macoute-type thugs, distributed free palm wine and trinkets, played the most popular high-life and reggae, brought in dancing girls from Kinshasa, and went on the stump with his retinue.  

The UN observers were a bit put off by the Tonton Macoute look-alikes, but they were a Central African Republic contingent, a kind of neo-blue helmet deployment more interested in the women provided by the President than the polls, and the UN wrote them off as 'civil disciplinarians'. 

The President won the election with nearly one hundred percent of the votes, but for propriety's sake and for his upcoming visit to the White House, he set the victory at a reasonable 60 percent margin.  The Biden White House bought all this lock, stock, and barrel so intent were they to secure M'bele's country's wealth and to fete and honor a real black African.  In Biden's introduction of the African President to the American public, the man could have no blemishes, no taint, and no scars.  He was to be a Black Athena. 


Now, M'bele was not alone in Africa with his autocratic rule.  The whole continent was ruled by big men who neutered and stifled any local enterprise that might have existed - observers have used the term 'might' because even during the European colonial period most of the continent was still tribal, barely Paleolithic, and populated by little more than hunter-gatherers.  

Any hopes of an economic miracle a la Japan, China, or Malaysia had always just been whistlin' geopolitical Dixie, and when topped off with dictatorships like those of Amin, Kagame, Deby, Mobutu, and M'bele, Africans were destined to remain boiling peanuts in the forest. 

M'bele was one of the worst big men on the continent.  At least the leader of Angola had let the Chinese build a modern rail, shipping, and air traffic system for a guaranteed long-term basement floor price for oil and as many diamonds and rare minerals they could carry; but M'bele didn't even do that.  He did contract a Chinese company to mine rare earths in the Eastern Provinces and an Israeli one to protect the mines from rebel attacks.  The minerals were sold to the highest bidder and the profits transferred to personal accounts in Switzerland, Macao, and Caribbean islands. 

The country festered in miserable poverty.  Social, economic, financial, educational, and health indicators were the worst in Africa, and that was saying something.  M'bele's country was the Mississippi of Africa; and like the American state, showed no signs whatsoever of improvement. The cities were rat-infested, malarial, crime-ridden miasmas.  The countryside was denuded, unproductive, and empty. 

M'bele - again like his autocratic neighbors - was indifferent to the plight of his countrymen.  He once explained to a visiting UN mission how Africa worked.  'I am sitting in this Presidential chair thanks to my family, my tribe, my community, and my nation; and I will repay them in exactly that order'. Allegiances or even concern for governance and people governed were last on the list to be given only desultory interest and little tangible support. 

So it was a surprise that M'bele had been invited to the White House; but maybe not that surprising when the diplomatic traffic between the two countries is read.  M'bele had, among all other African leaders, shown a compassionate concern for the fate of black Americans.  He more than anyone else had praised the American president for his unremitting efforts to raise the stock of the black man and to raise him to his rightful place atop the human pyramid.  M'bele might be politically suspect in his own country, but to Biden he was an African's African - a man deeply committed to race, Negritude (a concept borrowed of course from Senghor), and black racial superiority. 

Not only that, M'bele's country showed promise.  Biden and his foreign policy advisors knew that promise was just about all one could hope for in Africa, and they believed that if just a few corners were turned, a bit of adjustment here and there, the country would be on the road to progress and prosperity. 

Of course this was all fiction, imagination, and fantasy.  No sub-Saharan African country had made the least progress in their sixty plus years of independence.  In fact they were far better off under the French, the British, the Portuguese, and the Belgians.  Yet, without hope and promise, Africa would be consigned to perpetual misrule, penury, and tribalism; and this is why Biden was so anxious to have M'bele to the White House.  He was the great, black African hope. 

M'bele showed up at the White House in a caravan of Mercedes and Range Rovers, bedecked in military dress festooned with medals and honorary sashes, and accompanied by ten beautiful, lithe, graceful, and seductive young African women.  He brought his own honor guard with him, his own ceremonial garb, and his adoring legions. He took President Biden by the shoulders, looked him in the eye, and said, 'Brother, I am here'.

Nothing could be more endearing to the American president who had always wanted to be black, who had envied his boss Barack Obama for his African roots, and admired Bill Clinton, the self-proclaimed 'first black President'.  This invitation of M'bele was for mineral wealth, geopolitical security, and electoral influence; but more than anything it was because of Biden's lifelong desire to be other than white. 

Biden's briefing papers had given him fair warning about whom he was about to entertain in the Rose Garden and at a formal state dinner - the corruption, the undiluted greed, the venal, self-interest governance, and the universal kleptocracy of his government - but the President had firmly held on to 'hope and promise'.  His adage had always been, 'Never give up on the black man', and here was a prime example of policy put into action. 


The conservative press had a field day with the visit, but the liberal media outlets were overjoyed that finally a real African was to break bread at the highest level of the American government.  Biden's political supporters, the Squad, and the Congressional Black Caucus were overjoyed at the invitation and seated at places of honor at the banquet table.  Black leaders, pastors, and ordinary black Americans were to meet the African President.  He would see how black Americans were so important to Biden and his party. 

M'bele's speech to the banquet guests went on for an hour - a rambling, self-serving, biopic of the great man and his accomplishments, the salvational nature of the African, the spiritual contribution of the great black diaspora, and the future of the world's 'new Asia'.  'We will be there, my good friends', he assured the crowd. 'You can be assured of that'. 

And so it went from Washington Monument to the African American Museum where M'bele's photo was taken next to sports and entertainment greats.  Up and down the Mall, quick ins and outs of famous places, a farewell lunch, and a ceremonial sendoff. 


M'bele went home with a check for $100 million in untied aid in his pocket, a warm embrace by the President of the United States, and an open invitation to return.  The trip had been a success. 

M'bele of course changed not one bit, distributed the American aid money to family, relatives, and supporters and padded his Aruba account with the rest; lit a cigar and sipped a glass of Remy Martin fine champagne cognac and whispered to the lovely young thing on his lap, 'I'm home, sweetheart'. 

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