Our Ugandan driver picked us up from the airport in Entebbe on November 9. We were barely down the road before he asked us who we voted for in the election. He wanted to talk about Barack Obama. He wanted to tell us about the parties all over Kampala on the night Obama was elected. They were still going on days after the election to celebrate the achievement of this native son and brother.
As soon as people in Kampala learned we were Americans they wanted to engage in a discussion about our President-Elect. In the slums a man we met pumped the air with his fist and called out “Obama.” We asked him what his thoughts were about him. “He is African. He is my brother.” In mom’s arms nearby was a baby named Obama, a very popular name for African children right now. People wore Obama buttons, Obama t-shirts, Obama on their sleeves.
A video called “The Biography of Barack Obama” was on the market and news headlines screamed of his victory and how he would end poverty in Uganda and make this African nation the number one priority of his administration. There was even a newspaper column with 50 fun facts about Obama including the food he likes to eat, the television shows he enjoys and the fact that he failed to fulfill his promise to Michelle and give up smoking. People were so giddy that one worried they would be disappointed by the crush of expectations on this man who many viewed as a savior.
Others were a little more thoughtful in their assessments. Mr. Kayondo looked forward to a man who hopefully would dialogue and help end wars. Damien, a Nigerian professor who now teaches at a university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said his triumph meant that Africans and African Americans for that matter could no longer make excuses and act as though they are limited by white society. Joseph and a young woman we met at an African market just said “let’s wait and see.”
For all the excitement this Presidency has brought to America, there is an equal amount of enthusiasm in east African nations like Uganda and Kenya. In those countries, they slog along with leaders who are corrupt and siphon off money for themselves instead of fixing roads and fighting poverty. But for now attention has turned to Barack Obama. He may be the next President of the United States but he is their President too.
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