2009-01-02 / Travel

Obama - African expectations limitless

As we eagerly wait for President- elect Obama's historic inaugural ascendency to the White House on January 20, 2009, the expectation barometer continues to rise.

Remember the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in which 195 innocent revelers were killed and another 295 injured? Was it not a signal of sorts to the incoming president to test whether he has the mettle and no- nonsense hotheadedness to respond and crash provocateurs.

Going by the expectations and goodwill invested in him, Obama is not just going to be an American president, but a world president. With his chequered history of childhood stint in Indonesia and Kenyan ancestry, Obama is as much an American as he is a third worlder. Africa expects to reap a lot from his presidency. Something akin President J.F. Kennedy who did not have any connection to Africa, but his policies were lauded in Africa to this day.

Had Obama been president in 2008, he would have been put to a real test by a messy situation in Kenya, the root of his ancestry, following the bungled elections which pitted the Luo tribe against the Kikuyu, the two leading and arch rival ethnic groups in the country.

Obama's ancestry is Luo, and his grandmother with whom he has been seen in pictures still lives there, plus other siblings and close relatives. As the president of the most powerful nation in the world what would he do to sort out that mess? He would not just leave his grandma to die in the hands of marauding tribal thugs.

Obama's victory has given a lot of meaning and impetus to politics in Africa. You will hear "I will Obama you," meaning I will defeat you in a political contest. Or "We shall field an Obama," meaning a fierce political candidate who will bring victory and change against all odds. Already, Obama's influence is beginning to bear fruit in this part of the world. A tough- talking and argumentative person can also earn the name Obama because of his oral skills.

Africa is replicating the Obamas in their families by naming their children after his family. If a census were to be carried out now, results would show that many kids born after November 4, 2008, have been named "Obama," "Barack," "Michel," "Malia," and "Sasha" because the parents see hope and change in his presidency.

The last time children in Africa were named after political leaders was at the dawn of independence movements in the 50s and 60s when many were given the names of leaders like Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Obote of Uganda, Nyerere of Tanzania, Kenyatta of Kenya, Ben Bella of Algeria, and so on.

How will Obama relate to and serve a continent which thinks it deserves much more from him because of his ancestral connections, and yet its record of performance is so abysmal?

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