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Paul Opiyo Ojwang, 43, repairs a bicycle at his open-air garage in Kogelo. The hamlet in western Kenya is the ancestral home of U.S. President Barack Obama. Four years ago, Kogelo, and Africa in general, celebrated with noisy gusto when Obama, whose father came from here, became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. (THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS)
Paul Opiyo Ojwang, 43, repairs a bicycle at his open-air garage in Kogelo. The hamlet in western Kenya is the ancestral home of U.S. President Barack Obama. Four years ago, Kogelo, and Africa in general, celebrated with noisy gusto when Obama, whose father came from here, became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States. (THOMAS MUKOYA/REUTERS)

Africans pleased with Obama victory, but less enthusiastic than in 2008 Add to ...

From small villages to sprawling cities, most Africans have welcomed Barack Obama’s election victory, but with noticeably less enthusiasm than they did in 2008.

Mr. Obama remains popular across Africa, yet the happiness at his victory is muted by skepticism about his African policies. Many people are disappointed that he failed to take a higher-profile stance on African issues, despite his Kenyan heritage.

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“Obama deserves to win,” tweeted an Ethiopian, who then added: “Sorry, I see no change for Africa.”

A man in Malawi voiced his complaint with this tweet: “Obama is as white as any US prez that has been.” And a Ugandan on Twitter said he hoped Mr. Obama would be more energetic in his African policies in his second term, including “coming down hard on African dictators.”

The most ecstatic reactions came from Kenya, the homeland of Mr. Obama’s father, where the U.S. president is still a hero. In the capital, Nairobi, some Kenyans celebrated the election result by waving a U.S. flag and carrying a stars-and-stripes teddy bear in the streets.

In the village of Kogelo, where Mr. Obama’s father was born, villagers sang and danced to celebrate the election. His 90-year-old grandmother, known as Mama Sarah, smiled joyfully and told journalists that she was happy at the result.

In South Africa, which has clashed with the Obama administration on issues such as the Libyan military intervention, the official reaction to the election result was more restrained. President Jacob Zuma issued a terse statement of congratulations to Mr. Obama, urging him to “play a positive role” in Africa’s development.

“We value our relations with the United States and look forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the years to come,” Mr. Zuma said in the statement.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, founded by anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, congratulated Mr. Obama and described the United States as “a vital partner in Africa’s efforts to overcome poverty and inequality.”

Mr. Mandela’s former wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, told reporters in Pretoria that Mr. Obama’s victory speech had brought tears to her eyes. “We all need an Obama presidency,” she said.

Ordinary South Africans seemed to agree. “He deserved to win – he supports peace,” said a domestic worker in Johannesburg.

A woman from the posh suburb of Sandton joined in the celebration on a Johannesburg radio show. “Viva Obama!” she said.

After his election victory in 2008, Mr. Obama travelled to only a single country in sub-Saharan Africa, making a brief 24-hour visit to the West African nation of Ghana. His predecessors, George Bush and Bill Clinton, travelled more widely in Africa, and many Africans are hoping that Mr. Obama will make a longer trip to Africa in his second term.

Follow on Twitter: @geoffreyyork

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