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Africa can only fantasise about Obama’s victory

By Bashir Goth - posted Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Obama’s election as the 44th President of the United States has resounded throughout the African continent as it did in many other parts of the world. It was a definitive moment in history, an incredible dream come true for millions of African Americans, a shattering of a psychological Bastille for white Americans and indeed a triumph for all humanity. It was also a day of recognition for tens of thousands of American biracial people like my son, an offspring of an African father and a white American mother.

Young people and families in different time zones around the world stayed awake all night as the election results started trickling from state to state. As my wife and I went to bed, we left our son glued to CNN and devotedly following up the results on his lap top, adorned with Obama’s campaign wear.

Briefing me on the results when I woke up Wednesday morning in Abu Dhabi, still Tuesday night in America, I could see how fired up he was. This is when I realised that this was something the world had never seen the like of it in living memory.


In Africa this was equal to the 1960s when the wind of change for freedom was blowing over the continent and Africans were breaking the chains of colonialism. Obama’s victory was embraced throughout the world as a victory of character over colour as was dreamt by Martin Luther King, a victory of human equality over bigotry and a success story that could only be written in America.

After arriving at work, I received a call from my son telling me that Obama had won. Thinking about it I had to call him back immediately after I put down the phone in order to share the moment with him in the way it deserved and listen to his voice as he narrated the numbers and developments to me in heightened enthusiasm. Soon after I ended his call, I kept receiving messages from friends all over the world. An African Ambassador and a friend in Abu Dhabi couldn’t hold back his emotions and pride. “Africa is at the top of the world,” he told me.

My brother, a journalist, reached me from our hometown in Somaliland and told me how anxiously the people in Somaliland, that remote and neglected corner of Africa, awaited the results of the election. In Kenya, Obama father’s homeland, the government declared a national holiday, and the feeling was equally ecstatic all over Africa.

My brain was working overtime as I tried to capture the importance of the moment.

This is not the time to dig into history but in order to fathom the awe striking enormity of the moment one cannot escape to remember that America went through tumultuous times since the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution prohibited slavery and through the Civil Rights movement in 1960s until Obama’s election victory.

The importance of the day and the emotional burden it carries is something that only an American can comprehend. However, as an African who as a young student was imbibed with Africa’s post colonial nationalism, the literature of Negritude, the horrors of apartheid in South Africa and the last vestiges of colonialism in former Rhodesia, Mozambique and Angola, I can understand why Africa should rejoice in Obama’s victory.


But as the last echoes of the event faded away, I asked myself, why Africa should rejoice? Obama’s victory is an American victory; a victory that was conceived and delivered in America. Africans had celebrated as if an African dream leader had been elected for the continent; as if the African people would wake up to a new dawn where all their suffering and hardships would disappear.

After a sober examination I realised that Africa’s gloating over Obama’s victory was nothing but an illusion and that Obama’s story was impossible to achieve in Africa. African immigrants would be lucky if they get peace in another African country let alone aspire for a political post. Slavery is still practiced in Africa where Africans enslave Africans in countries such as Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Sudan.

The Rwandan Genocide is still going on in lesser degrees in Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda.

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First published in Adwal News on November 17, 2008.

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About the Author

Bashir Goth is a Somali poet, journalist, professional translator, freelance writer and the first Somali blogger. Bashir is the author of numerous cultural, religious and political articles and advocate of community-development projects, particularly in the fields of education and culture. He is also a social activist and staunch supporter of women’s rights. He is currently working as an editor in a reputable corporation in the UAE. You can find his blog here.

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