Written by Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

[Tajudeen is deputy director UN Millennium Campaign, Africa]

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Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem

June 16, 2008: There is a carnivalesque celebration across Africa about Senator Barrack Obama becoming the Presidential candidate for the Democrats in next November’s elections in the US.

The excitement is such that one would be forgiven for thinking that Obama was about to be sworn in. The enthusiasm ignores the fact that he is yet to be formally adopted and still has an election to fight against the Republicans. Nowhere is this excitement more infectious than in Kenya, the homeland of Obama’s father.

Kenyans are not alone. I am not sure how many of the millions of Africans now jubilating about Obama’s possible victory, would be that enthusiastic were Obama to be standing for office in their own countries. Can you imagine an Obama as a presidential candidate in Ivory Coast?

African enough

Would he not be reminded that he is not African enough? How could he pass the ‘ivoirite’ test when even a former Prime Minister of the country, born in the country was disqualified? If Obama had stood in a Nigerian election would he have generated the same mass adulation?

This is a continent in which a former President (Kenneth Kaunda), founding father of Zambia and a man who served as President for 25 years, had his citizenship stripped by his successor Chiluba (a small-minded small man) because his parents allegedly came from a neighbouring country (not even another continent) The former President of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, had the citizenship of a number of Tanzanians annulled because they (or he suspected that they) disagreed with him politically.

As part of his campaign of prolonging his gerontocracy, President Mugabe stripped many Zimbabweans of their citizenship. The journalist Trevor Ncube was declared a Malawian, but his siblings who were not considered sympathisers of the opposition, remained Zimbabweans.

Ethiopia and Eritrea shamelessly engaged in tit for tat denationalisation of innocent citizens because of the senseless war between the two leaders. There are so many examples of routine denial of citizenship across Africa.

The ease with which political opponents are foreignised in Africa would never permit Obama to dream of becoming a local councillor, let alone aspiring for the Presidency in an African country. Even within the same country, claims of who is an indigene, a settler, a resident, and so on, are used to disempower fellow citizens.

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