Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Obama Nation

From Actualite Afrique - Africa News, I peeped the following article regarding Tanzania's reaction to President Obama's big win last week. 

Two things to note in this here news piece IMO: 1.) more than a lil' bit of pardoning the prez for not focusing more on Africa in his first four and *hoping* he will do so in the next, and 2.) a very pointed discussion about how Western politicians "graciously concede defeat" and "the huge transparency gap" in the way Western elections are run versus those in most African countries.  While these remarks could really be aimed at any African politician in any African country, they particularly bring to mind Raila Odinga who famously contested (probably rightly) Mwai Kibaki's 2007 presidential win in the detriment of the political stability of his country and the safety of his countrymen.


Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election was the major story in Tanzanian newspapers this week but accompanying editorials focused on its ramifications on other parts of the world.  "As the world's strongest economy, not to mention its military might," wrote The Citizen, "the U.S. has the capacity to dictate a lot of what happens elsewhere across the globe."

The private daily recalled how Obama's 2008 victory at the polls was received with a lot of excitement in Africa, probably, because many regarded the president of the 'Big Brother' nation as "one of us" with his roots in Kenya.

Given Africa's generally parochial politics, where leaders tend to abashedly direct national resources to political supporters and their villages of origin, there was a belief that Obama would spoil the 'continent of his father.'

"It is clear that in the world's biggest democracy, matters are not run on the basis of the big man's whims.  It is American interests, and not the president's interests (and sentiments) that reign supreme," the paper explained. 

The Citizen said irrespective of who occupied the White House, the U.S. had specific areas of focus and "development partners" must not expect much simply because there is change or otherwise at the top of its administration.

"However, the executive's background and style of leadership must surely influence the implementation of initiatives that benefit recipient nations while serving American interests as well," the daily said.

Also, the paper pointed out that the American business, security and cultural dominance can be sustained only if poverty and social upheavals are put in check in other nations, including those in sub-Saharan Africa.

"That is why we expect President Obama will use his second and final tenure of office to boost partnership with developing nations in areas of health, poverty alleviation, and education.

"As he had aptly said in his 2008 acceptance speech, his victory was not about him, it was about 'us.'  And for a man who leads the country touted as 'the land of opportunity,' the pronoun 'us' is not just about Americans; it is about the world at large," The Citizen added.

Meanwhile, The Guardian pointed out that the U.S. electoral system was touted as the best in the world in terms of its openness in partying and campaign styles.  But just like any system, it may not be lacking its own demerits.

Yet there were many lessons that African countries and individual politicians could learn from the polls, said the daily, noting in particular how the loser graciously conceded defeat.

"What Africans may learn here is that the loser need not wait to be prodded into accepting defeat.  Even before Obama spoke, Mitt Romney had conceded defeat at his Boston campaign headquarters."

The paper quoted Romney saying: "This is time of great challenges for America; Republicans and Democrats should work together to avoid partisan bickering and political posturing....leaders should reach across the aisle to solve the nation's myriad problems....We look to Democrats and Republicans in government at all levels to put the people before the politics."

The Guardian also hailed Obama's statement as the re-elected president promised to work with leaders of both parties on national issues and discuss ways to 'move the country forward.'

"This is definitely a major lesson for African leaders.  Not every idea from an opponent is discarded.

"We see a difference that whereas many an African politician handed defeat would at this juncture plot to deny the process its logical run, the thoughts of the former rivals are engaged in plotting the way forward for their country," said the daily.

The paper, however, cautioned that any tampering with the electoral process should be challenged through formal mechanisms.

In addition, The Guardian observed a huge transparency gap between the way the U.S. elections were run and those held in most African countries, partly because of logistical bottlenecks.

"In our recent memories of presidential elections, we know that it was only in Ghana and in Zambia where orderly handover of power took place," the paper added.

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