post Obama makes Africa proud

November 11th, 2008

Filed under: General Issue — Lissan Magazine @ 12:04

Original title: Obama has made Africa proud
By Joyce Njeri, Copy Editor

Two hundred and thirty-two years later, a reality that all men are created equal appears to have struck with the world’s super power electing its first black president.

And for Africans, it is one exhilarating moment in time that represents hope and a belief that perhaps racism might finally be dying out in a world shamefully plagued by it over the years.

photo: Gulf News Archive

But history has been made in the United States. Senator Barack Obama, born of a black Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, ascends to the most powerful office in the world, as the US President.

For me - and of course the entire African continent - it’s a moment of great hope and exhilaration. Not, because I hail from Kenya, but because a member of the most burdened race on earth will now lead the most powerful State.

I made a few interesting observations while browsing a Cuban website. The country’s ailing and retired president Fidel Castro wrote that it was a pure miracle that Obama had not been assassinated. He wrote: “Profound racism exists in the United States. Millions of whites cannot reconcile in their minds the idea that a black man with his wife and children would move into the White House, which is called just that, White.”

Race is something that has been addressed widely during the 21 long months of campaign. The mere fact that a conservative country such as the United States has voted overwhelmingly for a black man, is a strong signal that race is fast diminishing as a barrier to achievement.

And it’s not just the US. In the final weekend of the fierce race for the White House, many countries around the globe openly supported the Democrat, who they saw as the candidate who will offer hope.

Notable cases
An opinion poll by Gallup showed that most countries in Africa, Europe and Asia overwhelmingly supported Obama. But notable cases are the “white dominated” countries like Britain where 60 per cent supported Obama to 15 per cent for McCain; Australia at 64 per cent to 14 per cent for McCain, Canada at 67 per cent to 22 per cent for McCain and Germany at 62 to 10 per cent for McCain.

The fact that these countries openly and strongly supported a “man of colour,” they are sending a strong message that race is finally fading off in a world where cultures are faster fusing.

Obama’s election brings a new dimension to US foreign policy, particularly with regard to Africa. The African people are excited, not just because Obama is a black man, although that is certainly a thrill, but because he is inspirational, intelligent and qualified. He will bring real hope and development to the continent.

It’s common sense that big words like unchecked capitalism, privatisation, globalisation and liberalisation have dealt a major blow to many businesses in Africa, but there is now broad bipartisan consensus in support of expanded trade relationships.

Obama’s presidency will greatly facilitate the diplomacy required to try and make some progress on issues such as the humanitarian crisis in Congo, Darfur or the political situation in Zimbabwe. Having his roots in Africa, it gives him an edge in understanding the challenges facing developing countries. The Obama administration would also focus on helping Africans eliminate conflict across the continent.

Bush’s contribution
Let’s not forget the numerous major contributions of President George W. Bush’s administration to Africa. There has been much more continuity than discontinuity of the Bush administration’s Africa policies and initiatives than the previous Clinton administration’s policies and initiatives.

In Bush’s term, the African Growth and Opportunities Act, which opened US markets to African goods on a massive scale, was passed. Due to this, jobs have been created across the continent. Aid has been increased through many programmes, including the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).

Away from Africa, Obama’s presidency sends a strong signal that US politics will change. He enters office with the expectation that he will restore order to the economy and bring renewal to the US and the whole world. Obama himself has promised to heal the world’s and America’s political divisions. There’s no doubt that these are weighty expectations that will require a superhuman effort. The continent expects so much more from Obama as it looks to him to finally turn decades of fine words about trade and debt-relief into reality for the African people.

It’s a change we can believe in.


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