“Enfin,” which means “finally’’ in French, is emblazoned in large bold letters atop a photo of the Obama family on the Nov. 15 issue of Jeune Afrique (young Africa), the leading magazine reaching Francophone Africans, people from the former French and Belgium colonies who use French as their official language.
All over the continent of Africa, and in the Diaspora, people stayed up all night to watch the Nov. 4 election returns. My callers from Senegal told of outside TV projections on building walls in Dakar (soon to be a Sister City with Miami) so crowds could see.
Likewise, crowds gathered in Lagos, and in other cities throughout many of the countries in Africa. A friend from Benin who called stated, ecstatically, that this, rather than our military or our money, is what makes America great.
During the early days of the primaries, I was in Kenya, which was suffering through the turmoil and violence caused by a disputed election. The bitter joke going around was that a Luo, or member of the second-largest ethnic group in Kenya (and the group from which President-elect Barack Obama is descended), would be elected president in the United States before the same thing happened in Kenya.
The Luo, over four million strong, have never made it to the presidency in Kenya. But when Obama won, Kenyan Mwai Kibaki, who is not a Luo, declared a national holiday and proclaimed that, “The victory of Barack Obama is a victory of our country.”
Obama’s victory may advance the cause of Kenyan citizens.
In Latin America, where Afro-Latins are struggling to establish a powerful movement, people took heart as Obama’s victory lifted spirits. Many of their comments mirrored those of Jorge Ramirez Reyna, president of the Black Association for the Defense and Protection of Human Rights, who ended his statement with, “Today, every African descendant believes and understands that we can change history – and today the African-American Senator Barack Obama has changed this world.”
In Europe, both white and black groups called out for addressing the disparities that exist. I met with Patrick Loez, the president of CRAN, a consortium of black organizations in France. He stressed the importance of Obama’s election to the cause of generating both increased effort and increased acceptance of those efforts.
Those who look to Obama as a savior for Africa need to heed the words of President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal who, after highlighting the historic achievement, warned people against expecting too much, and stressed the need for them to take their own actions. We who support progressive policy have much work to do, but it is exhilarating to know that we have a president who will always be conscious of Africa.
Brad Brown is the first vice president of the Miami-Dade NAACP. He is also a contractor with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he works on African coastal and marine projects.