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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Obama bug bites Ugandans

"He's so adorable!" those words, said emotionally, by Linda, a Makerere University student, explains better the frenzy surrounding Barrack Hussein Obama in Uganda.

At university campuses, in taxis and on the streets and blogs, the talk is about the Illinois senator who's seeking his party's nomination for the US presidency.

The obsession with the light-skinned Democrat has the more been made easy by that distinction in him as a man of the people. His followers have not forgotten August 2006, when he came 'home' and joined Kenyan Nobel peace prize laureate, Wangari Mathai, to plant a tree at Uhuru Park.

His confidence, "flow" and sense of humour appeals to the young generation who picked a cue from their American counterparts to form Ugandans For Obama (UFO), a movement of his diehard admirers.

"Our passion for Senator
Obama is based on the fact that he stands for truth, sincerity, hope and change; something that is not only relevant to America but the entire world," said Bernard Sabiti, president of UFO.

Sabiti, who works with Straight Talk Foundation and insists he has no interest in politics, was visiting Kisoro, his home district when the idea of forming UFO struck.

"I entered St. John's Pub one evening and was shocked to find locals in a hot debate about Obama. Someone wondered how a Kenyan was going to be an American president while others contended that would never happen. I saw that they were all crazy about Obama," he said. "In Kampala, Obama was an even hotter topic and as an honest man that I had so much come to admire, I decided to do something that would bring together his fans."

Over 100 people have since registered and many are university students and the young, working class. To them, Obama is "a sensation, a lyric and an irresistible political rock star" for whom they have composed poems, songs, canticles and slogans of praise.

Although they don't have an office, they meet weekly, in the homes of their well-off comrades to watch the progress of the campaigns on CNN and other recorded items on Obama, and are planning a mega launch soon, according to Sabiti.

Meanwhile, they exchange regular e-mails and jokes on the latest from the campaigns. One joke is about their political 'foe' John McCain driving his Straight Talk Express Bus that along the way somehow loses a wheel!

Those who can have arranged with their relatives and friends abroad to send them Obama-branded shoes, mega posters, caps, T-shirts, key holders, name it. And those with unlimited Internet access have opened blogs and facebook accounts wholly dedicated to their hero.
Edward Echwalu, for example, has designed an Obama template for his blog which can be accessed at He owns two mega posters of him and kneels before them thrice a day [morning, noon and at night] to pray for his man.

"Oh man, that man is everything," he said breathlessly, "I don't know how I'll take it if he doesn't become president."

Edward posts updates on Obama and one of his entries echoes the slogan of his hero: "Change we can believe in!" The comment's section captures well the sentiments of other Obama fanatics. The optimistic say they are keeping their fingers crossed while one of the superstitious alludes to a story in Drum magazine about a revered South African fortuneteller who prophesied a woman becoming the next American president.

But this has not dispirited another ardent Obama fan. Gerald Bareebe, for that is his name, even picked a line that was first used to refer to Obama for his blog name. It is called "A man from nowhere!" and can be accessed at

One of his entries is a funny story picked from the New York Times online about 'mama Obama' –"an illiterate, barefoot woman…" who claims to be Obama's grand mother.

The Obama bug has also bitten Ugandans on Facebook. They upload pictures of him as a young man, his speeches, plus videos of his campaign rallies. The Facebook girls claim he's presently the hottest thing on earth! At 46, Obama is certainly a hunk, no wonder that famous U-tube video of the I Got a Crush on Obama has found itself on Facebook accounts of many Ugandan girls who go about joking that they will have their Obama babies real soon! One of them is a Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire who read his books and fell for his intellect, uniqueness, humility and passion for his own people.

"I understood the plight of ordinary African-Americans and Obama as a man who tries to reason out rather than pass judgment," she said. "When he started his campaigns, few believed he would pull it off, but as a centre person he has beaten the long held beliefs of far-right and far-leftists in the US politics and I believe he will be the first black American president like the Americans call him," Kagumire said.

You would think it weird of Ugandans to form support groups for a candidate they will never have chance voting for, but in a country where many struggle on without jobs, they cannot be blamed for identifying with a man who has given them reason to believe.

In fact, they believe that joining UFO or supporting Obama "is the most important decision you will ever make in your life!"

Except for one lady, all the interviewees were pro-Obama: "Poor Mrs Clinton! Woman has played the game for donkey's years, set a thorough plan and has experience in her bag but I suppose that isn't enough," sighed the lady who preferred to remain unnamed.

Obama's Ugandan camp is confident he will become the official Democratic candidate that will most probably battle republican John McCain in the November general presidential election. And then we shall wait to see if one little man will indeed make history as first black president of the most powerful country in the world.

--Sunday Monitor, March 9, 2008