In Africa, Obama's Race Still Resonates

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(The Root) — During the 2008 election cycle and after President Obama's victory over John McCain, Obama mania swept the world, and the international excitement was due in no small part to what made his presidency most historic: his race and, specifically, his Kenyan ancestry.


The day after the election, the African Times chronicled the "euphoric reactions" of people in Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast and Kenya.

Nearly four years later, and less than three months before another election, what's the status of that euphoria among those for whom Obama's African roots created a personal stake in politics on another continent?

While these days, supporters in the United States are more likely to cite Obama's accomplishments and how his policies differ from those of his Republican opponents than to celebrate the symbolic power of his presidency (and at least one group of African-American pastors is campaigning against him), the "first black U.S. president" excitement is still going strong abroad.

At the Lean H. Sullivan Summit in Equatorial Guinea, The Root talked to African attendees from various countries about whether they'd like to see Obama re-elected. We learned that the groundbreaking nature of the Obama presidency resonates as intensely now at the end of his first term as it did four years ago.

Alhasi Iddrusu Abubula, 54, a security guard from Accra Ghana, told The Root: "I support him, and yes, I would like for him to serve a second term. He is from Kenya. He is the first black president of the United States. In Africa we believe he is a good man and we believe he is good for America, but also for us here."

"He is the first black president of America, and I also like his actions around the world," Menie Amimerry, 42, a Gabonese financial director in the construction industry, said, explaining that Obama's policies have matched the excitement about his racial identity. "I think he will continue in second term he will do more in the aspects of developing economies of Africa," he added. "He puts interests into democracies and African countries."


Racchid Mallouk, 40, an entrepreneur and investor in the health care industry, told The Root that Obama's presidency has personal meaning for him. Originally from Morocco, he now lives and works in Luxembourg, where, he says, he frequently encounters prejudice. "I understand racism. So we say, if it can change there, it can change here," he said. "It makes me believe a guy like me could be president of France."

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer. Follow her on Twitter.