6 November 2008
As the world celebrates Barack Obama’s win in the United States presidential elections, former South African president Nelson Mandela has written a letter congratulating Obama on his victory.
In a letter sent out by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Mandela said the achievement of Obama, the son of an African immigrant and the first black president of the world’s most powerful country, demonstrated that every person had the potential to bring about change for a better world.
The former president applauded Obama’s commitment to supporting peace and security around the world, and asked him to help in ridding the world of poverty and disease.
“We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead,” Mandela wrote. “We are sure you will ultimately achieve your dream of making the United States of America a full partner in a community of nations committed to peace and prosperity for all.”
Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was among other South Africans who congratulated Obama on Wednesday.
Comparing Obama’s victory to that of South Africa when Nelson Mandela became the country’s first black president in 1994, Tutu said it showed “that change is possible in the world”.
‘Change is coming to America
Obama won a convincing victory on Wednesday, saying his election was proof that his country was capable of change. Delivering his acceptance speech, Obama told a rally of over 200 000 people that their response to his call to vote was outstanding.
He said this was seen “by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, of people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different.”
Obama won the key states of Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, securing him his seat in the White House.
The 47-year-old president-elect, who will be sworn in as America’s 44th president in January 2009, said “change is coming to America”.
Hopes for trade subsidies
Earlier on Wednesday, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe urged Obama to use his presidency to tackle poverty.
“We express the hope that poverty and under-development in Africa, which remains a challenge for humanity, will indeed continue to receive a greater attention of the focus of the new administration,” Motlanthe said.
Business Unity South Africa (Busa) said Obama would bring a new and fresh approach to the economy that would change America’s relationships with the rest of the world.
Busa said it hoped Obama would fulfil the promises of subsidies made by the US to developing countries during World Trade Organisation talks.
Meanwhile, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a public holiday “for Kenyans to celebrate the historic achievement by Senator Obama and our country.”
Kibaki called Obama’s victory a “momentous” day for Kenya, where Obama’s father was born. “The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya,” Kibaki said. “As a country, we are full of pride for his success.”