Seeing Barack Obama on the Thames and on the Rhine, the feeling around the world is clear. We are green with envy.
The results of Obama’s domestic economic policy do not look good at this point in time. Unemployment is at its highest in twenty five years. There is no guarantee that his economic policies will change the gloomy outlook any time soon. Here in Kenya as in many parts of the world things, economically speaking are really tough. Millions are hungry and without employment. Pastoralists are loosing livestock and a livelihood.
But we are envious because in spite of the great pain and distress of tough times, Americans are so proud of their president. Kenyans feel let down and short changed by the political leadership. What is worse, I have the feeling that Americans have faith in Barack Obama. I would love to feel the same way about Mr. Kibaki, Mr. Odinga, the Mayor of Nairobi and my member of parliament.
I suspect that the political leadership in Kenya feels even more envious than I do. I bet they are wondering why they are not universally loved as well as Barack Obama is loved. Some of our politicians have even claimed that they are related to Mr. Obama. Some have even proclaimed “Yes We Can”. But others have suggested that the honey moon will soon be over. And that Mr. Obama is overrated.
Envy is a complex passion. It engenders both love and hate. Some Kenyans hate Barack Obama because of his Luo connections. For some politicians from Luo community, Obama meteoric rise has diminished their place and messiah status. These leaders feel that too many Luo people adore Obama, and with too much ardor, at their expense.
Overall, the optimism and jubilation that the majority of Kenyan people felt during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, election and inauguration have is undiminished.
We had a chance to appreciate Mr. Obama’s political skills, charisma and charm with world leaders at the G-20 summit and with Europe at the NATO celebrations. This new demeanor of America came almost as a surprise. We had grown accustomed with the ways of exclusion-for us or against us-and posturing of the Bush years.