Anticipation is high ahead of United States President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration today (Tuesday) here in Washington. Many Africans are expressing optimism that Obama's presidency would mark a significant improvement in U.S. policies towards Africa. They are also hopeful that various African leaders would take a cue from the United States experience of electing the first African American president. An estimated two or three million people are expected to witness Tuesday's historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Professor Okey Onyejekwe is the director of governance for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. From Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa he tells reporter Peter Clottey Obama's inauguration is an inspiration to the world.
"I must tell you from the outset that there is a lot of anticipation today and a lot of pride in the continent and reflected from across the sub-region, the sense of pride and a sense of hope. And I think that what I can tell from my discussions across is that there is a lot of anticipation that US foreign policy will change in a drastic fashion. And as we all know the US has not pursued policies which have been popular in the continent," Professor Onyejekwe noted.
He said Obama and the American experience should be a lesson for heads of state across Africa.
"I tell you that the great anticipation here is that from the demonstration and from what has happened within the US that there is a lot that African leaders can learn in terms of how to be dedicated and committed to causes and how to be focused in terms addressing fundamental issues and problems of the African masses. The anticipation is also of the fact that the nature of inclusiveness, which Americans have demonstrated will also be a major factor in the continent in terms of doing away with divisive politics, politics of ethnicity, and politics of sub-nationalism, which has bedeviled the continent," he said.
Professor Onyejekwe said there is hope that Obama's presidency would serve as a cue for African leaders to hand over power peacefully once the people have decided who should lead them.
"In fact the hope is that it does because you rightly pointed your finger at one of the biggest governance challenges on the continent, which is the fact that people perpetuate themselves in power. If you think of it there are some presidents that have outlasted past American presidents and it is quite a challenge the idea of leadership in perpetuity. And the worse part of it is that it also undermines people's ability to pick and chose their leader," Professor Onyejekwe noted.
He hoped current African leaders would begin to shy away from holding on to power even to the detriment of their own citizens.
"The issue of renewal and we are hopeful that this would be one of the outcomes at least a demonstration effect that people do not need to stay in power in perpetuity. There is need for renewal and this journey of Obama could not have been a better example," he said.