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Africans Watch US Elections With Great Interest


Africans, like many people around the world, are watching with great interest as the United States prepares to choose its next president. Correspondent Scott Bobb has this sampling of what some on the continent are thinking about the election and what to expect from it.

Among Africans following the U.S. presidential election, Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama is favored by far to defeat Republican Party candidate John McCain in Tuesday's vote.

This is in part because of Obama's ancestral links to the continent. He was born to a Kenyan father and a Caucasian American mother.

But a Kenyan law student in Nairobi, Simon Wekesa, says Obama's popularity also comes from his work in the African-American community in the United States.

"Obama is an American. He has been in America for a large part of his life," he said. "But since black Americans are still Africans and Obama has a direct link with Kenya."

He says if the Democratic Party candidate loses it will be because of racial discrimination.

But Kenyan political scientist Barack Muluka does not think racism is such a big factor.

"If it was a matter of race then Barak Obama would not even have gotten to where he is at this point," he said. "I think we want to [should] give the people of the United States of America a little bit more credit and credence than we seem to be doing."

Senegalese civil servant Mamadou Diallo says Obama's popularity in Africa comes primarily from his concern for less fortunate people. He says if Obama wins it will not be because he is black or Negro but because he represents the poor which is the largest sector of American society.

But a teacher in Senegal, Said Nyang, says an Obama election will send a major signal to the world. He says it will be a revolution because Obama will show other countries that it is possible for someone with black skin to change the world.

One of the changes anticipated is a change in U.S. foreign policy, which has come under considerable criticism from abroad. Zimbabwean teacher Tafara Moyo says this will happen, no matter which candidate wins.

"This is primarily because the outgoing president, has had a very unpopular foreign policy which though premised on somewhat justifiable questions of 'war on terror', in their own words, it is clearly increasingly looking illegitimate and rash especially if you look at the hot spots in the world such as Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

But a member of the Mauritanian parliament, Mohamed Babane, believes John McCain is the best choice because he will maintain stability at home and abroad. He says Mauritanians are very interested in the American election because if there is stability in America, there is stability in the world.

Nouakchott University Professor Hadramy Ould Khatry disagrees.

"We think that Obama will be more peaceful, will be more moderate and will not have that Bush doctrine that would impose a more or less moralistic view on them," he said.

Senegalese engineer Serge Malo says he hopes the next American president will do more to ease poverty on the continent. He says an Obama administration would press for more favorable international trade and development policies toward Africa.

He says Africans are expecting a lot from Obama in regards to poverty and Africa because during the campaign he showed a strong humanitarian and social side.

But Kenyan student Polly John does not think an Obama victory will have a big impact on Africa.

"Obama is not a president of Africa," she said. "So, in case he wins, he will probably concentrate on the United States although he will have those friendly contacts with Kenya."

A university student in Senegal, Francis Gomez says an Obama victory would set an example for Africa's youth. She says it will show young Africans that only hard work pays, that they are wasting their time with useless wars and they should not sit in misery waiting for aid from the Americans, the Chinese or others.

She concludes that Africans should believe in the African dream because they have enough intellectual and natural resources to bring about change. All that is needed, she says, is a change of attitude.