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04.11.2008 US & Canada

History beckons America; will it be Obama or McCain?

History beckons America; will it be Obama or McCain?

Millions of Africans, home and abroad, will be watching with keen interest as Americans go to the polls today to decide ,between main contenders Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama - as to who becomes the 44th President of the word's sole superpower.

Today's election is described by political analysts as a watershed in American history because there is the high possibility of a Black becoming president for the first time in the country is history if Obama wins.

On the other hand, if McCain wins the election, he will become the oldest person in American history to walk into the White House as President, while his running mate, Sarah Palin will become the first American female Vice President.

The election will end months of rigorous campaigning by the candidates, as well as anxiety, great expectations, speculations and uncertainties among the international community, as they await the verdict on who becomes the world's next most powerful man.

The great expectation of many Africans is that the candidate with the most appeal to the cause of Africa, in particular, and the developing world in general, should emerge victorious.

Opinion polls in the US suggest that Senator Obama is slightly ahead of Senator McCain in the contest to elect the next man to travel in Air Force One.

However, in Africa, the opinion polls overwhelmingly favour Obama, for various reasons.

The foremost reason many Africans support Obama is his ancestral links to Africa, being the son of a Kenyan man.

Beyond that consideration, Obama has also won the hearts of many Africans as a result of his work in the African-American community in the US, while others are touched by his concern for under-privileged people.

Between the two candidates, many Africans also believe that Obama has demonstrated a better and more liberal vision as far as US foreign policy is concerned, a policy that has come under severe criticism in recent times.

In Kenya, the ancestral home of Senator Obama, reports indicate that a massive carnival has been planned to greet the anticipated victory of the Democratic candidate.

The overwhelming support for Senator Obama notwithstanding, there are a few Africans who believe a victory for Senator McCain will guarantee security for the rest of the world in view of his belief in protecting American interests world-wide.

Obama is the first African-American to become the presidential candidate of a major US party. He clinched the Democratic nomination after beating former first lady, Hillary Clinton, in a gruelling contest that held America spell-bound between January and June.

Obama, 47, studied Political Science at Columbia University in New York and then moved to Chicago where he spent three years as a community organiser.

In 1988, he attended the Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review.

After Harvard, Obama returned to Chicago to practise civil rights law, representing victims of housing and employment discrimination. He served in the Illinois State Senate from 1996 to 2004.

Born on August 29, 1936, Senator McCain has been the Senator for Arizona since 1987. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1958 and had a 22-year military career as a pilot and officer in the US Navy.

A veteran of the Vietnam War in which he became a prisoner of war (POW), Senator McCain left the Navy in 1981 and was elected to Congress in 1982 and then the Senator in 1986.