Africans hail Obama win as victory for Africa with song and dance


Nairobi : Africans Wednesday celebrated the election of Barack Obama to the White House with song and dance and hailed his victory as one of great significance for the continent.

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In Obama’s ancestral homeland of Kenya, people took to the streets to celebrate as the nation’s president declared a national holiday.

In Kenyan capital Nairobi, people dressed in suits on their way to work joined those who had stayed up all night watching the election returns to dance, wave branches and chant Obama’s name.

Similar excited scenes took place in Kogelo, western Kenya, where many of Obama’s Kenyan relatives had gathered at the home of his grandmother, Sarah Obama.

Well-wishers and the international media all mingled in the tiny village, with song and dance erupting as the result became clear.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki congratulated president-elect Obama on his victory and designated Thursday as a public holiday for Kenyans to celebrate.

“This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya,” Kibaki said in a statement. “The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success.”

Obama’s mother was a white woman from Kansas and his late father was Kenyan, although he abandoned his son when he was only two years old.

Despite the fact he has only visited Kenya a handful of times, Obama is considered a hero in the East African nation.

Many Kenyans feel that having an African-American will bring a new self-respect for black people everywhere.

“In colonial times black people were considered unimportant,” said Joseph Mjomba, a 21-year-old student. “Now we have a black man in the White House.”

Analysts have warned that an Obama presidency may not bring a great deal of concrete change in terms of US policy in Africa, but some leaders see it as having immense symbolic value.

In Zimbabwe, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) termed Obama’s ascension to the US presidency as a victory for the struggle for democracy in Africa.

“For those of us who are still in the trenches, fighting for change and democracy across the entire African continent, this is our victory,” the party of long-time opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said in a statement.

The desire for change that swept Obama past the post was also the motor behind the MDC’s fight against the “dictatorship” and “neo-fascism” of aging President Robert Mugabe, the party said.

The party also saluted John McCain’s graciousness in defeat.

“If in Africa, incumbents would accept defeat and would graciously depart from the seat of power, this would be a different continent, and indeed Zimbabwe would be a different place,” the MDC said.

The remark was a swipe at Mugabe over his refusal to step down as leader after placing second to Tsvangirai in the last credible presidential elections in Zimbabwe in March.

In Nigeria, people congregated in pubs to watch the elections and burst into spontaneous applause and cheering the moment Obama was announced to have won Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Lai Mohammed, spokesman of Nigeria’s main opposition party Action Congress, which is still contesting the 2007 election of President Umaru Yar’Adua, also hailed the poll as an example to other nations.

“Obama did not go to stuff ballot boxes or embark on other forms of election rigging as some politicians here would have done, so it was clear to McCain and to other stakeholders that Obama would win glaringly,” he said.

The popular reaction in South Africa was more sedate, but there also Obama’s victory received wall-to-wall media coverage.

In Johannesburg, hundreds of people attended all-night election parties in bars and private homes Tuesday night, along with expatriate Americans.

At a breakfast hosted by the US consulate in the city, local journalists cheered Obama’s win. Americans had seized the opportunity “to be on the right side of history,” journalist Tim Cohen said, smiling broadly.

Selina, a cleaning lady from the inner city dressed in a housecoat as she prepared to start work in the wealthy northern suburbs, punched the air on hearing of the outcome.

“I’m liking him best,” she said in broken English.