“Four years ago, I stood before you and told you my story - of the brief union between a young man from Kenya and a young woman from Kansas who weren’t well-off or well-known, but shared a belief that in America, their son could achieve whatever he put his mind to,” -part of Barak Obama’s acceptance speech at the National Democratic Convention, in Denver.
The world is awestruck by Barak Obama’s acceptance speech. The above captures the essence of a humble background, of hope, of survival and that of great achievement.
That Obama has a Kenyan blood line creates yet another spiritual link with the millions of us on the African continent.
Obama’s politics carries relevance for us in Africa, in many respects, the challenges are many as we struggle with our fledging democracies, compounded by the vicious cycle of poverty most languish under.
For Rwanda breaking from a brutal past to creating a fresh image of itself, Obama’s rise carries relevance. The world no longer judges people on the basis of past afflictions but purely on merit.
That Obama has black blood in his veins and has struggled so much through life is only an addition to the extra mile he has to go in proving that all barriers can be demolished with enough tenacity.
That Rwanda suffered a brutal genocide therefore becomes no excuse for failure.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame spent the whole of Sunday afternoon on a private radio station Contact FM answering questions on the programme ‘Crossfire’.
One of the most poignant facts Kagame made was about Africans rescuing themselves out of their situation: “Africa will be made relevant by Africans themselves,” he said, responding to questions about Obama’s candidature.
“It is not a small achievement for a person in that environment and circumstances to emerge like that,” he said while cautioning Africans not to expect too much out Obama’s victory; and instead posing the question, “Can Africa start making itself relevant?”
Africa’s relevance can only be felt in a new breed of leaders there to serve the people and not to be served by the people.
Leaders whose definition of democracy goes beyond the narrow perspective of what we are seeing in Kenya and Zimbabwe, where power sharing becomes a cure for stolen elections.
Why not create the environment in which elections are not disputed in the first place?
Thus the relevance of Kagame’s thinking.
On Rwanda’s progress in reconstruction, President Kagame said: “We have to struggle and invest in creating an entirely different image about us, the bad things we have known or been known for or something that will differentiate us from other people that is so attractive.”
Just in the coffee industry, Rwanda’s coffee exports almost doubled in the first half of this year from last year’s 3.193 tonnes to 5.512 tonnes this year.
Rwanda is a country emerging out of a brutal past, setting its own pace on economic reconstruction and democratisation.
That a whole head of state would spend his whole Sunday afternoon quenching the information thirst of information-hungry Rwandans takes a certain leadership caliber.
The commendable ability to expose himself to the grueling process of public accountability answering the most painstaking political questions of the day, says something about Kagame’s leadership style injecting a fresh brand of politics on the African continent.
Raising questions on the brand of Africa’s leaders the new kind of politics the continent has to steer itself towards.
I read with interest Obama’s speech, wondering to myself of what relevance it could even be for his Kenyan kith and kin.
Kenya is still recovering from the aftermath of the last disputed elections. Interestingly Obama is rumoured to be cousins with Raila Odinga, the widely-believed winner of the December elections.
Only days ago Odinga had meetings with Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
I again wondered what notes the two men were exchanging with each other, having suffered the same afflictions.
Again for both men having suffered for so long in the opposition is no excuse for failure.
Most people use the above in analysing similarities in the Kenyan and Zimbabwean political situations characterized by violence, election rigging leading to a solution based on power-sharing in the form of a Government of National Unity.
That the two former British colonies have suffered over the years from deeper structural matters, to do with the nature and scope of governance, is often amiss.
And so the relevance in Kagame’s message: Africa’s relevance will come from Africa itself. Are Africans ready to take the challenge?