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Africa Stays Up All Night to Hear US Election Results

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Millions of Africans are exhausted after staying up all night watching expectantly to see whether a man of African descent will elected to the America's highest office. VOA's Peter Heinlein attended an all-night party of journalists and political enthusiasts in Addis Ababa where everybody was talking about being American for a day to share in this historic election.

It's a long night here in front of the television at this upscale Ethiopian home. Half a dozen anxious viewers drift in and out, trying to control the nervous energy. It's well after midnight, but the TV screen shows long lines of voters standing in the rain waiting for their turn in the voting booth. TV commentators kill time until the first polls close.

"There is a good deal of confidence in the Obama campaign that he's going to win this evening," they said. "So far, there's also the unknown. As one strategist put it, 'I'm a nervous wreck." 

That comment sends a thrill through this audience. This is Africa and there are no McCain supporters in the room.

Deresse Kassa, a professor at Addis Ababa University, says he has never stayed up late for any elections results. But this is a moment he says he doesn't want to miss.

"America has history whereby the African-American community has to struggle to be considered citizens themselves and be a franchise in order to cast their votes," said Kassa. "Coming from this segregation and inequality, to be able to see Democratic candidates running for the presidency, the highest office, by itself is big achievement."

The televisions are on as the first results come in during the wee hours of the morning. The news is encouraging for viewers here.

Journalist Lulit Amdamariam says she is energized by the possibility of witnessing, what she calls, a great moment. "We're going to be here all night," she said. "Thirty-two hours, if we have to."

Lulit is not an American, but she lived in the States for several years and attended Howard University in Washington.

"I attended a black college, so I understand what this means to the black community in the United States," said Lulit. "This is a candidate the entire world can relate to."

Lulit's colleague Tamrat Negera, editor of at the Amharic-language newspaper Addis Neger, has not been to the United States, but he says he can understand what this election must mean to African-Americans.
   
"Africa shared the pain of being black, or the pain of status, or colonization, which you understand there was a limitation for a black in this world," he said. "But Obama is breaking that through."

Journalist Lulit Amdamariam calls it an American moment. 

"I think this is the only time the entire world wishes they were American," she said. "So they could vote. Seriously, I think the entire world would go out and vote if they had the opportunity tonight."

This is a moment to remember. Although some Africans may have a hangover on Wednesday, the prospect of the first black U.S. president has enthralled a continent. 

 

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