Monday, January 19, 2009

As Africa celebrates Obama

It is more than two months since history was made with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Africans all over the world celebrate this unique feat. It is indeed a moment of glory not just for Americans but for all lovers of democracy worldwide.
It is a good coincidence that the inuaguration of president Obama is coming a day after the Martin Luther King Day was marked. In President Obama we see to a large extent the realisation of the dream of MLK. Indeed, forty years after MLK's death, Obama is living his dream.
For many African Americans who will troop to Washington to watch the inauguration, it sure will be a momentous occasion; one that would remain indellible in their memories. Africans on the continent celebrate with them. We are happy with the success of Obama because it inspires a new kind of confidence to many people of African descent. But much more than that, we are happy that race was not allowed to be an impediment to the emergence of the candidate generally considered the best choice.
I very much agree with a quote credited to Jann Marie Hodge, a Colorado nurse, 'Obama didn't win for being black, but for being the best candidate'. I believe this is very instructive before we reduce this success to a race one. Hear what Hodge said of Obama in an interview: "I'm black and even I'm sick of hearing it (the emphasis of emergence as the first black American president). I don't want this American victory to be minimised to a black victory alone. He didn't win because he is black.
"Obama won because he is clearly the best person for the job. He gives Americans from all walks of life hope for the future. Through him, our credibility as Americans has been redeemed in the eyes of the world. He embodies the definition of a transformational leader -- one who can inspire and one who will bring about major positive changes."
For Africans on the homeland, Obama's victory calls for some deep reflection. While we celebrate the monumental feat it should challenge us. The time has come for excellence to be our watchword in our choice of leaders rather than the ethnic group they come from.
On a continent like Africa, where people often vote under conditions of intimidation and violence, where leaders serve the interests of themselves and their own ethnic group, Obama's election is a brush-up lesson in what democracy is all about. Isn't it ironical that some Kenyans would watch Obama's inauguration from the tents that became their homes after the violence that greeted the presidential elections in their country in 2007.
As we celebrate Obama's rise in America, I want to say to all readers of this blog that it is great to be back after four months off. I am back and back for good: Back to continue in this task of making strong case for development in Africa. Indeed if Africa must develop, leadership is key. The best that we as Africans can make out of Obama’s success, is following in the footsteps of his journey to White House with the belief that became his campaign slogan “Yes, we can!”
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