"Obama has had a profound effect on many Zimbabweans"

HARARE, (IRIN) – Businessman Elias Mugari squeezed into a crowded hotel lobby in Harare, Zimbabwe, on 5 November to watch a TV tuned to a satellite broadcast of the victory speech of US President-elect Barack Obama. With tears in his eyes, he told IRIN what he hoped an Obama presidency would mean for his crisis-ridden country.

"We held our elections in March, and this is November and they have not been finalised. On television we watched Obama win an election which was free of violence and with none of the controversy [which plagued] ours. The loser, John McCain, quickly conceded defeat when it became clear that he would not win.

"Zimbabweans as a people, who are hurting because of election violence, are yearning for such a peaceful transfer of power. Even our rogue politicians would feel bad about subjecting us to this bad lifestyle when a fellow black person in the USA is assuming power in a peaceful manner.

"It is good for Zimbabwe in particular, and Africa in general, that a young African-American has become the most powerful man in the world. For decades, African dictators have always hit back at Western countries which suggest they practice the rule of law and democracy, [accusing them of being] racists and imperialists.

"When Obama preaches democracy and the rule of law to the same African despots, they can’t accuse him of being racist. An additional dilemma for any African dictator would be the mere fact that Obama has such charisma and appeal among Africans, a verbal fight with him would make them [even more] unpopular in their countries.

"For Zimbabweans in particular, comparing the ages of [President Robert] Mugabe, who is 84, and Obama, who is just 47, will change the thinking of many of us who suddenly realise that younger leaders can offer new ideas and new solutions.

"Many Zimbabweans, including elderly people who rarely follow global politics, have followed the rise of Obama, and they have identified with his ideas. Obama has had a profound effect on many Zimbabweans, with the younger generation regarding him as one of their own, while the elderly view him as some favourite nephew whose ideas they have quickly embraced."