The decision to award the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama caught all by surprise, me included. However, I am pleased and understand why the wise men and women of the Nobel Peace Committee decided that he should be honored with the Nobel Peace Prize this year.
In less than a year since he took office, President Obama has injected renewed hope and momentum in the stalled Middle East peace process. He is fully committed to the two-State solution and rightly feels that the Palestinians have been the main victims of this conflict.
One should not expect quick progress in resolving the 60 year-old conflict rooted in generations of mistrust and hatred.
In less than a year, with his inspiring messages of humility, dialogue and peace, President Obama has significantly lessened the tensions in the world, in the Middle East (University of Cairo speech), in relations with Russia, Iran, Venezuela. President Obama's conciliatory approach, the depth of his intellect and vision of peace, has won over many millions of people.
By giving hope to the millions of disfranchised, the poor and the angry in Middle East, Asia and Africa, President Obama has begun to drain the swamp in which Al Qaeda and other extremist groups operate and recruit. One should not underestimate the power of President Obama's oratory and conciliatory approach; it has had the effect of, at least, rescuing many young and angry from sliding further into extremism.
His Prague speech on nuclear disarmament and concrete action since then in restarting Nuclear Arms reduction talks, leading hopefully to elimination of all nuclear weapons, showed courage.
President Obama's pledge of more support in fighting extreme poverty is another example of his genuine commitment to peace and justice. He is also more open to a fairer trade regime that favors the developing world.
He is pursuing dialogue with the decrepit military junta ruling Burma. He is right in attempting to engage the military diplomatically as I have advocated for years. I believe that there is a real chance President Obama will succeed in securing Daw Aung Suu Kjie's release and the start of serious dialogue between her and the military leading to lessening of tensions, mistrust and a new, albeit imperfect, political environment in Myanmar.
Will President Barack Obama succeed? Will he deliver on his promises and do justice to the Palestinians? The negative contrarian forces in the US and Israel are formidable. The extremists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere will not give up. If Israeli hardliners persist in encroaching on Palestinian land with expanded settlements, they will, in a perverse way, strengthen the hand of the extremists and undermine President Obama's strategy.
When we shook hands and exchanged few words in the evening of 24th September at the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art reception which he and Mrs. Michelle Obama hosted, I told President Obama with his wife Michelle listening in attentively: "Mr. President, you cannot fail". He responded: "We will all work together". This is President Obama's belief and style, working with all, reaching out, building bridges, forging consensus.
So I believe that this son of Africa, descendant of Africans who were enslaved for centuries, elected to the most important mission in the world, does deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.
I would add just one note, that I am disappointed that President Obama has not started a serious review of US policies towards Cuba and has not ended the unjust, politically unwise and morally indefensible embargo on Cuba. It has been 50 years of US attempts at "regime change" in Cuba and punishing an entire nation through a most comprehensive, draconian embargo, worse than the ones imposed on US biggest adversary during the Cold War, the now defunct Soviet Union, or on other countries and regimes whose human rights record and democratic credentials are not better than the Cuba's.
Other than that, I remain one of President Obama's fervent fans. Congratulations on the Nobel Peace Prize!