Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Africa does not expect charity from Obama win

Africa does not expect alms from the United States now that an African-America is soon to be sworn in as its president.

That was not the point of the overwhelming goodwill and support that the continent lent to President-elect Barack Obama in his audacious, and wildly successful, fight for the most powerful office on the planet.

Kenya is proud of Mr Obama, his almost unimaginable achievement, and just like he has inspired tens of millions of Americans, we too shall draw inspiration from his example.

Here is the son of a man from Siaya who has defeated a war hero to become president of the United States of America.

In his acceptance speech in Chicago on Wednesday morning, Mr Obama said in America all things are possible. As a matter of fact, his victory demonstrates that in this life, all things are possible, that the capacity of human beings to overcome stigma and adversity is not just greater than we imagine, it is possibly greater than we can imagine.

As the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday when Mr Obama was born 47 years ago, black people could not vote in some parts of America and many were killed for trying. A short half a century later, a black man is soon to be America’s commander-in-chief.

His victory provides evidential justification for disadvantaged minorities and people of colour to reassure their children that they too can rise above the limitations of their station, the sins of their parents, and the disadvantages of their circumstances.

And it is a lesson to every African father to create the right conditions for their children, to not allow the limitations of their own vision to be a hindrance to the aspirations of their offspring.

To Africa and the entire black race, Mr Obama is the vindication of our humanity. He is our evidence that there is nothing really wrong with us, that our lack of success is not because our genes predispose us to be stupid but because we have not dared to dream big enough dreams.

Africa does not expect Mr Obama to conduct business as usual in Washington. There is a lot that is wrong with America, the world and with the relationship between the two.

Marginalised underclass

Americans are equal in theory, but there is an underclass which is marginalised and dispossessed. Mr Obama must see this underclass with a new eye and have the courage to right injustices which have been ignored for decades.

The world, over whose affairs Mr Obama will have so much influence when he is sworn in, is also an unequal and unfair place. The international economic system is a jungle where the pursuit of profit is elevated over the need to provide a fair chance for billions of people living in abject poverty in every corner of the world.

Africa hopes Mr Obama realises that access to opportunities is not a preserve of Americans. While protecting America’s prosperity, he must have something to say about fair trade, particularly for Africa.

The earth is dying, poisoned by the avarice of man. Those who profit from the poisoning will not even acknowledge that their activities pose a danger to humanity.

Africa expects Mr Obama to add his voice to those cautioning that we shouldn’t live just for today but must take care of tomorrow too.

Last but not least, Africa would like America to work for peace. The style of President George Bush, of bullying nations and waging senseless wars, has nearly bankrupted America and has not made the world safer.

Mr Obama must defeat terrorism through alliances with other nations, but he must also have the humility to reach out to America’s enemies.

And he must work hard for his country, love its people, and repay the confidence and honour they have bestowed upon him.

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