Jilted Africa cool to US vote after Obama fever fades

Fri Nov 2, 2012 6:10am GMT

By Njuwa Maina and Tosin Sulaiman

KOGELO, Kenya/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - In the tiny Kenyan village of Kogelo, U.S. President Barack Obama's ancestral homeland, some people talk of hurt feelings of the kind experienced when a favourite relative has failed to get in touch.

Four years ago, Kogelo, and Africa in general, celebrated with noisy gusto when Obama, whose father came from the scattered hamlet of tin-roofed homes, became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States.

Looking across the Atlantic to the November 6 presidential election, the continent is cooler now towards the "son of Africa" who is seeking a second term. There are questions too whether his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, will have more to offer to sub-Saharan Africa if he wins the White House.

Obama, who hailed his "African blood within me", only visited sub-Saharan Africa once in his four years - a stopover of less than a day in Ghana in between summits elsewhere.

In Kogelo, which was put on the tourism map by Obama's election and where his grandmother still lives, locals take this personally.

"He should have come to at least say 'hi' to the people of Kenya so that we can know that we are still together in spirit, rather than abandoning us as if he was not our son," said Steven Okungu, 21. "It is a disappointment."

Many in Africa feel their enthusiasm for Obama was not requited by him in terms of increased U.S. commitment and fresh concrete initiatives on the world's poorest continent, a deficit they see being filled by other emerging players such as China, Brazil, India and South Korea.

Sub-Saharan Africa has gone virtually unnoticed as a topic in the U.S. presidential election campaign, focused heavily as it has been on pressing domestic issues such as the lack of jobs and how to prod America's stuttering economy into faster growth.   Continued...

U.S. and Australian tourists join local residents in a traditional dance at the Barack Obama Nyang'oma Kogelo primary school, 430km (267 miles) west of Kenya's capital Nairobi, January 20, 2009, during a cultural celebration in honour of U.S. President elect Barack Obama. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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