Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Primary Sources: Two african journalists view American politics upclose and personal, part II

This is the second installment of a regular feature that investigates how Africans view the U.S. presidential elections. To read the inaugural piece, click here.

Cue theme music. Two journalists: one from a Francophone African country and the other from an Anglophone African country. One reports for radio. The other for print. They’re covering the Democratic and Republican primaries. On the eve of Super Tuesday, we talk to them about their impressions.

I’ll shut up and let them speak in their own words.

Louis Oulon, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
I am really amazed to see how Barack Obama has made up his deficit of the past compared to Hillary Clinton. He’s really making an incredible comeback…When you look at his polls, he is winning in some states that he wasn’t even close a few months back. We spoke to some researchers at Yale University who said that Clinton may have a majority of votes [on Super Tuesday], but Obama will be picking up a number of states.

We just saw McCain speak this morning, and he said he would rather lose an election than lose the war in Iraq. He said that the Democratic proposals to leave Iraq would be a big mistake. He won’t accept the U.S. pulling the troops out and leave Iraq without a victory. He also told New Yorkers that he would find Osama bin Laden and bring him back to show him New York City. That was quite popular.

I don’t really see national security being a big issue in Burkina Faso, but for international terrorism, we are all concerned about that. Who knows what will happen if [Osama] bin Laden’s guys attack the American embassy in Burkina Faso? Who knows how many BurkinabĂ© work there? What will happen to them? We are all concerned about this issue of safety.

We are also expecting to see our good relationship with the United States deepen. This has been getting better for the past five years, and I’d like to think either Democrat or Republican will keep it going. We have MCC [Millennium Challenge Corporation], AGOA, and other plans to help fight poverty.

There’s not really enough information right now to say who is going to be best for us. None of them are talking about Africa or international policy. So we should wait and see.

Davison Maruziva, Harare, Zimbabwe
With Hillary and Obama, it’s a very tight race and this is going to be difficult for people in a sense that it’s so historic. It will be difficult for someone to stop their dream, for Hillary as the first woman President and Obama as the first black man.

Since the debate, it seems that Obama has better been able to clarify his positions, but the differences aren’t very vast (with Clinton’s). People feel energized by Obama, his youthfulness has been able to energize young people ages 18 to 21. Whether that will translate into actual voters come November is another matter.

McCain seems to be surging ahead very well and Romney is making sure he isn’t being written off.

McCain seems to be defying the pattern seen around the world with Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown in Great Britain of youthful leadership taking over. But then you come to America and they’ll have this president who is now 70 and will be 71 for the election and the concerns whether he will be slightly out of touch with the concerns of general people.

Davison pointed out that when seeing McCain live this morning, the candidate spent only five minutes of his 45-minute speech talking about the economy. The rest was dedicated to national security issues.

He tends to dwell a lot on his experience with national security, his family’s history and the fact that he was a Vietnam veteran. That’s all commendable, of course. But what if there are no manifestations of violence by Al Qaeda or anyone else before the election? The Republicans won’t have the upper hand.

Democrats tend to listen to the rest of the world, and so many people will know how to handle (a Democratic President). Republicans tend to run a little roughshod over European allies, and then Africa and Asia are muffled, distant drums.

As for leadership, I think the best leader is one who recognizes differences. People who have more experience are more difficult to work with while inexperienced leaders have the ability to experiment a little.

This election is exciting in the sense that as concentrating the attention of a whole nation, and in Zimbabwe we have an election on March 29, and there isn’t this kind of hype or activity. This absence of discussion that provides the marketplace of ideas is one area that we are now failing.

And Zimbabwe?

I think there is a groundswell of opinion in the rest of the world that maybe we have left Zimbabwe out in the cold too long. I’d like to know what the candidates would want to be done when the situation normalizes. Generally, when getting new administrations, there are expectations for change and perhaps a new chapter.

No comments: