Thursday, January 22, 2009

Presidents

In Cameroon, travel between the towns and the rural areas is done mainly by bush taxi: nine to twelve passenger vans (which carry up to twice those numbers here). Most bush taxis are painted in bright colors and have a religious or otherwise meaningful slogan, like “The Truth is Mighty.” Yesterday I saw the first of what I am guessing will be many that read simply, “Obama.” In Africa, when a person goes off to the city and makes it big, he or she will usually stay connected to the home village. Many water projects, schools, clinics, improved roads, etc., have come about in rural areas because of that ethnic group’s “elites” – the people who have succeeded financially. It seems that most of Africa views Obama as one of its elites. On inauguration day, I listened to a radio broadcast in which one person after another spoke of the changes that Obama will bring to them: better roads, scholarships, health clinics, etc. (Finally someone came on who said, “All of these people are forgetting that Obama is the President of THE UNITED STATES.”) At the same time, Bush is respected and even revered. A little-known fact of his presidency is that he gave more to Africa for HIV/AIDS research and prevention than any president since the disease was discovered.

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