African Leaders Appear To Favor Gore

By Julius Mokaya | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - If Africans were given the opportunity to vote in Tuesday's US presidential election, there would be a good chance that they'd support the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, analysts believe.

The general mood in Africa, especially the sub-Saharan region, is that a victory for Vice President Gore would insure a continued promotion of the interests and concerns displayed by President Clinton towards the continent, they say.

The Clinton administration has played a key role in attempts to bring peace to African trouble spots, especially in the Horn of Africa, the Great Lakes region and West Africa.

It was also during Clinton's tenure that the U.S. initiated the Africa Crisis Response force with American-trained soldiers selected from African nations to respond to crises within the continent.

Of the two main candidates, African analysts think Gore would present a more positive response to the continent's needs in matters related to the Aids pandemic, alleviation of poverty, good governance and foreign aid.

The Organization of African Unity shows no reluctance to take a position on the matter.

"'We want to start from the known ... At least we know Al Gore's foreign policies may not be so different from what Clinton's were," said OAU Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim.

"Therefore, we believe that he deserves our backing," Salim continued. "Many member states, I am sure, will definitely be [more] comfortable with the prospect of a win by Vice President Al Gore than a George W. Bush victory."

International respect for the power of the U.S. president is real and should not be underrated despite the end of the Cold War, said Shem Nyaituga, history professor at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

"'The U.S. presidency is more crucial now in Africa than at any other time before. Africa is in an economic, social and political transition, a situation that might require the intervention and support of the most powerful nation in the world," Nyaituga said.

"If asked, I [would] go for Al Gore. Bush thinks that Africa does not matter to the U.S., yet the continent provides a vast market for America's goods and a major source of raw materials for U.S. industries," he added.

Other observers contend that, while the race did not initially concern Africans, many leaders, scholars and ordinary people began to support Gore after Bush appeared to downplay Africa on his priority list during the campaign.

"'For us, we are looking at the policies each candidate is proposing," explained Kenya's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bonaya Godana. "We are not interested in personalities [but] believe Al Gore's position on U.S. foreign policy, particularly for Africa, will be in favor of our continent.

"We want someone ... who can influence the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations to give Africa a better hearing," said Tanzania's Foreign Minister, Jakaya Kikwete.

One thing few Africans disagree on is the power wielded by the president of the U.S., whoever is in the Oval Office.

"An American president can make a decision which, by design or accident, can make or break a government in Africa," said one Kenyan journalist.

"He can make a decision which can remove a president from power. On the other hand, he can sign a document that can keep an African president in power for the next 20 years, and all this without consulting ordinary citizens.

"But just as an American president can destroy an African government or let hell loose upon all of us, he can, conversely, guarantee peace, stability and economic prosperity for our region," the journalist said.