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Election of Barack Obama as US President and African excitement

October 22, 2008

Election of Barack Obama as US President and African excitement

Why Are Africans so excited about the imminent election of the Illinois Senator of Kenyan origin, Barack Obama, into the White House? That is what I have been asking myself for some time now. Cut across Africa, there are several people waiting for the election of Barack Obama, the Democratic Party Presidential candidate, ahead of USA election on November 04, 2008.

From Cameroon, passing across South Africa through Kenya ("Obama’s second home") to Uganda, etc, supporters and fan clubs have been created for Obama.

If this year’s American elections were to be voted by Africans and Europeans, then, I would have confidently concluded that Obama will be the next , that is 44th American president.

But the questions are; Why are people so excited with the election of Barack Obama as president of USA? What will be the impact on Africa if Obama is elected president?

Before the advent of Obama, who was little known in Africa till about a year and a half ago, other African Americans had occupied high offices in USA such as; Colin Powell, Condelizza Rice, Rev, J Jackson etc. But, did they do anything impressive on Africa? Most people in Africa apart from the intellectual class will tell you bluntly that they do not even know who Powell or Rice etc are.

There are so many things which many people do not know. As president of America Barack Obama has one objective : serve and defend the interest of America, politically, economically, socio-culturally and anywhere, whether in the Africa, Asia, Europe or the Middle East. It is against this background that Winston Arrey, a student in the University of Douala says “the advent of Barack Obama,-- as the leader of the USA will have little impact on Africa and Africans unless US interest is at stake”. He believes Africans must take their own destiny and pilot their own affairs. Emmanuel Ambe in Örebro University says "America is the most powerful country in the world in all domains and an African leading America will not allow his fellow brothers continue to be dragged in the mud and reduced to beggars" by its neo-colonial leaders. How neo-colonial will Obama not be? This is subject to another debate.

Osangie Ayanru, a Nigerian, member of the Africans Politics forum has a different view. He believes that Obama, being an African, will certainly not accept the stealing of money by African leaders and starching in foreign banks. He writes “….. I was encouraged to hear Obama, say that he would not deal (with) rulers in Africa, whose main interest is to cart our money and deposit them in Swiss bank accounts. Obama, was responding to a question on why Africa, is a basket case. If a system of accountability is engendered and encouraged by no less than an American president, we may be seeing a turn for the better in a continent blighted for so long by poverty, diseases, suffering and stunted growth due to the excesses of its rulers”.

This is true, but, the same African leaders who steal our money day in day out, and send to European and US banks are the same people who are welcomed and praised everyday by the same European and American leaders who will on the contrary always give lessons of "democracy". Omar Bongo of Gabon, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Obiang Nguema Equatorial Guinea, Idriss Derby of Chad, Sassou Nguesso of Congo Brazzaville, late Mombutou Seseko of Zaire, François Bozize of the Central African Republic, Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, etc, are some of the leaders who have once or twice featured in the list of Africa´s richest leaders or worst dictators. Their people continue to wallow in poverty yet, as they (rulers) go about gallivanting and living extravagant lives. Many of them like Paul Biya of Cameroon, continue to spend most of their time in western countries and being received by Western presidents.

Youth involvement Many of those anxious in Africa about the election of Obama are youths. First, Obama, is himself a youth, and far younger than a vast majority of African leaders. They believe that Obama, with his much heralded concept of change, will in one way or the other, boot out octogenarians who have taken most African countries hostage.

But, Congo Kinshasa and Togo are led by youths, though circumstances under their accession to power, and, whose interest they serve, remain highly questionable. Some countries also continue to be reduced to monarchies.

The election of Obama in USA, will give African youths positive hope and the believe in themselves, in the sense that, youths can also lead. The most important development must not only be limited to the election of a "coloured" or African to the White House.

However, has Obama the magic wand and the will to change things around in Africa? I doubt. He has been to Kenya where his father came from, just thrice in 47 years. Will he able to think about, and, influence positive change in Africa better in just 4 years as the next president of the USA?. Well, there may be some reasons to hope as many people continue waiting. Aloysius Agendia

Go Back

A very balanced and well-written article that with a few touches here and there would have made its mark a lot more. I will point out a few areas. You left out countries where supposedly democratic governments were elected but remain the governments of the strongman; Kenya and Zimbawe for examples. You also left out countries in North Africa; thus buying into the curren mental division of Africa into North and Sub-Saharan, an aspect that meaninglessly polarizes the continent even further. Even in some of the democratically elected governments like Nigeria the art of governance is not much different from what prevailed in military governments. You would have talked about those governments that routinely purport to be carrying out democratic elections which are actually African versions of legitimizing dictatorship with showhorses of parliaments like is the case of Cameroon and others. The showcase of Ghana would have been one country to be factored in your analysis or a veritable democratic government that truly is establishing a genuine and authentic political system with a true private sector economy.The curse of Africa remains the pious but blatant elite sloganeering translateable into empty verbiage that the mass swallows wholesale for decades without any mechanisms for accountability in 95 percent of the governments in the region.All in all, it is a good first step. God Bless Africa!Zama



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