Barack Obama is still vastly in the lime light even after clinching the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Normally you would expect the Republican Party nominee John McCain to be equally generating a lot of media attention, just over four months to the November polls.
But this is not yet the case and you would want to understand why. For the moment it has nothing to do with Obama’s confessed foreign policy approach of “direct presidential diplomacy” in dealing with the Middle East, or McCain’s avowed support for the Iraq war.
It is simply that whereas the latter’s easy and quick ride to endorsement by his party saved him a lot of resources in terms of physical energies and money, it denied him the chance of remaining in the news for a time long enough to bring out more of what makes him special.
Would a victorious Obama have made bigger headlines than his Republican opponent had their journeys to nomination been of equal distance? Probably yes or no.
Yes, because both men are on the verge of making - or have already made - history; if he won the elections, McCain, at 71, would be the oldest first term president in America’s history.
Obama is the first Black to be nominated as a presidential candidate by a major political party in the United States. No, because the race-related odds are ordinarily a bigger hindrance than those related to advanced age, the conclusion here being that the candidate who jumped the taller huddle was always going to have his victory more pronounced.
For reasons which will later on in this article come out as similarities between Obama’s political surroundings and the situation in my own country Rwanda, it is the 46 year-old son of a Kenyan Luo and a White mother from Kansas that I shall dwell on.
Democrats have elevated the Illinois African-American senator to a level where he has high hopes of becoming their country’s most important citizen, the world’s most influential politician. But what was their basis, so you may ask? The answer lies in Obama’s politics.
America is predominantly White, and even greatly advanced as they are as a society, I would bet against there being a single American who does not think race is an issue. However, I am equally under no illusion that Americans do not know where to place race when it is pitted against correct politics; politics of big time change they so anxiously seek; of the approach that would restore their military, diplomatic, and most importantly moral leadership, in the world.
In November 2006, Obama delivered a speech to the Chicago Council of Global Affairs in which he made a case for “phased redeployment of US troops from Iraq,” and pleaded for serious consideration of diplomatic dialogue with Syria and Iran. He views preconditions as a barrier if compromise is to be arrived at between the US and the hard-line Arab world.
Eleven months before this, he had written an opinion in the Washington Post that passionately favoured a solid stance against genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Obama is very clear when it comes to what the role of government in economic affairs should be. He has written saying that they “should be asking…what mix of policies will lead to a dynamic free market and widespread economic security, entrepreneurial innovation and upward mobility,” insisting that Americans “should be guided by what works.”
The above clear and focused positions on matters of great significance to current America are what endeared Obama to the voters. They are the political majority that have galvanised his nation, touching the young and appealing to the intellectual in equal measure. Before we knew it, the 12 percent that is the tiny fraction of Black people out of the entire American population mattered less.
The Great Lakes region has had its fair share of presidents who did not require racial majority endorsement in order to lead, and for long.
Former Kenya President Daniel Arap Moi is from the Kalenjin, an insignificant tribe in terms of numbers, especially in comparison with the Kikuyu; he was at his country’s political helm (do not ask me to value his legacy) for a quarter of a century.
Current Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, a Munyankore of the minute Hima sub-tribe, is in his 22nd year, the last 12 as a democratic leader, with no signs of not winning the 2011 contest.
World legend Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is from the little known Tembu tribe. If you knew he was not from the Zulu, may be you thought he was a Suthu. He is 90 this year but South Africans are yet to come to terms with the fact he is not their president when he is still alive.
Finally nearer home, your own President Paul Kagame; he has a vision that many think is too ambitious – turning Rwanda into a middle income society in a single generation. Never mind that his doubters do so even when they see the dream being backed by real innovations that have a striking resemblance to those that steered the Asian Tigers to economic prosperity.
Modern Rwanda belongs to the innovative visionaries who are pursuing change for the better. It derives inspiration from politics which are devoid of sectarianism. The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi so-called ethnicities have since ceased to matter - like Obama’s race of Black-Americans.
Come Rwanda’s presidential election dates in 2010, 2017 and so on – only those with political majority shall stand real chances of securing democratic mandates to lead this country, and yes, the rest of the civilised world.