The Obama Triumph: What Should Africa Do?

Published on 20th January 2009

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, while a monumental achievement in the history of American electoral politics, is likely to signal a transformation in American foreign policy towards Africa. As the first American president to have a direct family link to Africa by way of his father who was from Kenya and someone with existing family ties to that East African country, one would expect that American relationship with Africa will change for the better.One will certainly hope that the Obama administration will begin to put pressure on African leaders to transform the continent.

We pray that the wind of change that swept through America on November 4th will also sweep the African continent. The Obama victory represents a clear signal that the world is changing. Even a great bastion of democracy like the United States with a black minority population has elected a black man as president. It is important to note that Obama could not have been elected president without the significant number of the white electorates that voted for him.

President Obama takes oath of office
Coming four hundred years after the end of slavery, Obama’s victory represents a very significant transformative shift in American politics when seen through the lens of race. Obama won states that most democratic presidential candidates had not won in recent elections. This is a phenomenal achievement for a democrat and to have black man for that matter win states like Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia is truly remarkable. 

We pray that this wind of change will touch the hearts of African leaders and motivate them to bring an end to the wars plaguing certain regions of the continent, like the war between the Hutu and Tutsi rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. They should bring an end to the suffering of the people of Darfur in Sudan. They should find a solution to the current political impasse in Zimbabwe and help alleviate the suffering of the people in that southern African country. They should use their natural resources to bring economic and political development to their respective countries, promote the rule of law and practice the tenets of good governance. 

Nigeria, the continent’s second powerhouse after South Africa, should take the lead in transforming the continent by leading by example. Our leaders should imbibe the wind of change by way of the Obama victory. They should emulate the Mandela, John Kufour, and other legendary sons of Africa. They should put an end to the culture of impunity, lawlessness, endemic corruption and other ills.  

This brings to mind comments made by the outgoing president of Ghana, John Kufour, on BBC while on a visit to Malaysia about two years ago. The Ghanaian president expressed shock at the level of development he saw in Malaysia because Ghana, like Malaysia, got it’s independence in 1957. His comments reflect just how far behind most countries on the continent are in the areas of economic, political, social and technological development.

With the Obama victory, we can breathe a sigh of optimism and say that hope has come to Africa for a change. We can feel good again as we borrow from Obama’s campaign slogan“ Yes We Can.” 

By Anthony Ebeh

A commentator on a wide range of political issues impacting the international system

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