8 November 2012

Zambia: American Dream Lives On


FOUR years ago, Africans greeted Barack Obama's election with rapture, saying by electing the first-ever black person as President, the often-hyped American dream would certainly live on.

By re-electing Mr Obama for a second term of office, the American people are showing the world that any person who qualifies and has the ability can rule that great nation irrespective of one's race.

We, therefore, join so many people world-wide in yet again saluting the American people for re-affirming their principled stand on the issue of democracy.

It is indeed a significant development in this world's leading democracy which all nations should emulate.

It is further affirmation of the fact that American voters base their decisions on who to cast a vote for purely on the candidate's performance.

We hope less developed countries, including our own Zambia, would draw inspiration from the American experience.

To begin with, the American election campaigns had been peaceful throughout, devoid of petty issues that have characterised many campaigns in developing nations, including Zambia.

The campaign was conducted rather peacefully and both Mr Obama and the challenger Mitt Romney behaved in such a manner that gave no room to circumventing real issues.

They brought about aspects on health, as well as job creation, both of which are of interest to the American people.

What lesson can we learn from these quality and highly admirable election campaigns, knowing that ours have always been blighted by acrimony, violence and bribes?

We should further learn from the US elections that polls, wherever they are conducted, are like a game of football and will always produce a winner and a loser.

In our case, it is rare that a loser has congratulated the winner.

Mr Romney has just done that, gracefully accepting defeat and congratulating Mr Obama, the victor.

Mr Obama has responded with an equally humble gesture, saying he would talk to Mr Romney about "where we can work together to move this country forward".

Of course there is the issue of America's huge deficit as one of the areas they would work together and ensure that the US pulls through.

But even this was clear to the US citizens that it did not arise during Mr Obama's first four-year reign.

It was a legacy of the Democrats' predecessors, the Republicans.

The Republicans are largely to blame for the deficit because of their involvement in costly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And when he came to power, Mr Obama promised to withdraw troops from Iraq, the promise which he fulfilled, and has gone further assuring that the American soldiers will leave Afghanistan as well.

As with foreign policy, and African policy in particular, there was high expectation when Mr Obama was ushered into office for his first four years that he would give our continent much attention.

This, however, did not turn out to be the case as his symbolic visit to Ghana was to be his only trip to the black continent.

Regardless of the perceived neglect, though, we believe President Obama's power to grasp the African imagination remains undimmed, what with his re-election.

Of course his engagement with Africa has been mostly security-related.

This has been in terms of US covert military operations from bases in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Uganda.

These are believed to have been used variously to spy on al-Qaeda in East Africa, the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa and track elements of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, led by Joseph Kony.

Besides this, however, humanitarian assistance to the continent has continued covering health, education, economic and even governance issues.

We believe that following his re-election, Mr Obama will concentrate on these areas so that he leaves a legacy for which he will always be remembered as a product of this continent.

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