Africa Still Feeling the Obama Love

African newspapers review the first year of the U.S. president’s term.

How should we rate Barak (sic) Obama? On 4 November 2008, the former senator of Illinois became the first African-American to reach the White House as president. It was an event that fanned the wildest hopes of Africa. One year later, what remains of this craze? With sentiments between satisfaction and worry, the African press takes stock of the U.S. president’s first year in power.

Barack Obama has become an icon on the African continent since being elected to the presidency of the United States on 4 November 2008. One year after his electoral victory, the stream of elegies of Barack Obama in African newspapers has not dried up, ignoring the electoral defeats inflicted on the Democratic Party in Virginia and in New Jersey and increasing joblessness in the United States. “The first Black in the White House has succeeded, at least on a symbolic level, in imposing his rhythm. With him, as if by a miracle, hope is being reborn despite the economic crisis,” writes the Beninese daily, Fraternité. Yet Obama’s margin of approval in his own country is crumbling; the Americans are still waiting to see the effects of the recovery plan intended to overcome the economic crisis. The President, according to the Malian daily Le Républicain, is misunderstood by his compatriots who criticize him for his “penchant for rhetoric” and “see him as a Socialist.”

Love always…

The African newspapers prefer to focus on the policies that the president has put in place. The Ivorian daily Fraternité recalls the $787 billion plan that relaunched the United States’s 3.5 % growth rate and his healthcare reforms. With the same perspective, l’Expression’s internet site vaunts Barack Obama’s merits, highlighting “his desire to promote the peace process for the Israel-Palestine conflict,” and “his will to renew dialog with Iran.” Le Républicain notes that no matter what he does, the president of the United States can be certain that he will always be preferred over his predecessor, George W. Bush. The Malian newspaper ironically noted that he does not risk “finishing his term besieged by a stream of slippers.” [Editor’s Note: This is a reference to the shoes thrown by an Iraqi journalist at George W. Bush during his last year in office.] Better still, we forgive him for the presence of American troops in Iraq, the dispatch of 30,000 U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan and the perpetually postponed closing of the Guantanamo prison, even though we do not justify them.

L’Observateur Paalga, a daily from Burkina Faso, makes the case that Barack Obama had not arrived at the White House at the best moment. “In his defense, he has inherited the Iraqi and Afghan hot potato that George Bush passed over to him. [And] while he was asking himself how to disentangle himself from this quagmire, a horrific catastrophe struck his country, then the rest of the planet: the international financial and economic crises. The combination of these circumstances did not exactly facilitate the task,” explains the journalist San Evariste Barro.

Obama is in Africa’s good graces.

The honeymoon between Africa and Barack Obama continues. The Kenyan half of the president guarantees him the affection of an entire continent, which is not in fact waiting for him to revolutionize daily life, as L’Observateur Paalga points out. “The entire world knows that in politics, notably in democratic and not banana republics, the most important thing for a leader is evidently the opinions of his compatriots rather than those, let’s say, of the citizens of the world.”

Still, at this time, any assessment of the president of the United States appears premature. “More time is needed to accurately judge Barack Obama’s first year,” writes Fraternité. “He still has more than 4 years (sic) of mandate left ,” L’Observateur Paalga elaborates. “That is to say he has enough time to raise the bar and succeed in demonstrating the value of his political choices. And when we see the time remaining on the meter of his mandate, we can surmise that time is in his favor.”

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