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Not long ago, Western journalists tracked down Barack Obama's youngest half-brother, George, aged 26, who lives on less than a dollar a month in a Nairobi slum. "If anyone says something about my surname, I say we are not related," he said. "I am ashamed." Kenyans as a whole are divided. Obama is an easily recognisable Luo name, which means that Prime Minister Raila Odinga's supporters love Obama, but the dominant Kikuyu, for the same reason, supported Hillary Clinton.

For all that, Kenyans, Nigerians and many other Africans gave a warm welcome to the news that its prodigal son had won, just as Ireland did for JFK and Clinton. But Africa is not just a complicated but in many cases a defeated place and it will not readily identify with the new US president, the very picture of "can do" confidence, born of a personal success story as dramatic as any in American history. After all, one has to remember - no matter how united behind him they were in the end - how slow black Americans were to rally to his cause because they felt he was no child of slavery, no angry protest politician. That was, in essence, what the whole showdown with the Rev Jeremiah Wright was about.

Africans are far more familiar with the Jeremiah Wrights and Mich-elle Obamas than with people like Michelle's husband. When black American radicals - Marcus Garvey, Stokely Carmichael, Eldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X - fled the US, it was to Africa they came, trying to fuse their anger with the same bitter notes of African anti-imperialism.

Africans understood that drama, expected tragedy and martyrdom to follow and if someone like Cleaver went back to the US trying to make a living out of selling Black Panther golf bags, he just got written off. Far better a hopeless, delusional visionary like Garvey or Malcolm X than someone just trying to make his life work.

On the whole, Africans understood three sorts of black Americans: political martyrs, sell-outs and those ambivalent pin-ups who became celebrities through sport or entertainment. On the other hand, visiting black Americans who dared claim to have played a major part in ending apartheid - Jesse Jackson, Leon Sullivan and a host of lesser political Reverends - were quickly sent packing. How dare they suggest South Africans had not won their own freedom?

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January 22nd, 2009
3:01 AM
Obama's father is not an African immigrant. His father was an African in the U.S. on a student visa. He didn't come here to stay; he went back to his native African country.

Stewart Wood
December 26th, 2008
3:12 PM
You people in the US and Europe really have no clue about Africans and their mindset. Obama is no more 'African' than George Bush and no more 'black' than Margaret Thatcher was!

December 1st, 2008
10:12 AM
Africa did not "export a young man able to lead America". It exported a young man who had a son with an American woman whom he abandoned when the boy was 2 years old. President-elect Barack Obama was raised by his (white) American mother and from age 10 by her parents. His achievement is the result of uniquely American influences and has no relevance to the shortcomings of African leaders. Obama's African father's contribution to his welfare and education was negligible. His American grandmother, in particular, seems to have been most influential in Barack Obama's development.

AussieLouis, Australia
November 29th, 2008
8:11 AM
Obama is a white man in a half black body perceived as a "black" person. It's like my brother-in-law, a Chinese boy brought up almost entirely in England and thinks like an Englishman with no concept entirely of being Chinese. For Obama to be elected he has to learn how the African-American thinks for it is an important part of the electorate. Only in America can someone like him have the opportunity to reach the apex of leadership; no where else, not even in the civilised Western nations. All of us in the world has something to learn from this. Africa is the sick continent of the modern world where good leaders are mostly absent and where there are leaders they often turned out to be bandits. This is the reason why the western multinationals or commercial entities are able to corrupt and exploit African free of conscience. There would be no good end to both the exploiters and the bandit leaders. Like Rosepierre, the men involved and their decendants will have no good ends. It is the way of nature and its laws.

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