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November 4, 2008

Congolese will be watching closely as the results of the U.S. presidential election trickle in on Tuesday night. People in the Congo are hoping that Senator Barack Obama will win the contest over Senator John McCain and become the first African-American president of the United States.

The Senator from Illinois is not preferred over the Senator from Arizona because of his race, but rather because he has shown more interest in the problems affecting Africa in general, and the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular.

One of the first (and some may say few) bills introduced by Senator Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate is S.2125, a bill to promote relief, security, and democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

S.2125 supports the Congolese government position that the presence of Hutu militias and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Congo is being used as a “pretext” by Rwanda and Uganda to continue their “interference” in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It also refers to the millions of innocent Congolese civilians who have lost their lives because of the consequences of wars imposed on the Congo by foreign armies and their allies, “31,000 people … dying monthly”, and the war in the Congo as being “one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II”.

S.2125 also provides $52,000,000 for each fiscal year to be allocated for bilateral assistance programs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The bill was introduced on December 16, 2005, in Senator Obama’s first year in the U.S Senate. It was passed by the Senate on June 29, 2006, passed and amended by the House on December 6, 2006, the Senate concurred with the House on December 8, 2006.

After it was signed into law by President George W. Bush, the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act (S.2125) became the first federal legislation to be enacted with Barack Obama as its primary sponsor.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame and warlord Laurent Nkunda would prefer John McCain to win today’s election. They view the Illinois Senator with a lot of suspicion regarding future U.S policy in the Great Lakes region. Laurent Nkunda has said that he likes President George W. Bush.

An Associated Press article on Senator Barack Obama’s trip to Africa in 2006 says that the Illinois Senator thinks “it would be wise for the United States to emphasize helping Africa’s “anchor states,” countries — such as South Africa, Congo, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda — that are large, populous and with natural resources in their favor, and whose successes should spread elsewhere”. The article is featured on Senator Obama’s official Senate website.

During the trip, Senator Obama was prevented from making his planed trip to Kinshasa because of the fighting between supporters of Jean-Pierre Bemba and Joseph Kabila in the capital after the first round of presidential elections in Congo.

The growing Congolese community in the United States has mobilized in support of Senator Barack Obama. Congolese Americans, many of whom have fled their native country because of war, have contributed to his campaign in hopes that he will help bring an end to not only the war in Iraq but also the war in Congo.

Concerts by top Congolese musician J.B. Mpiana will be held in Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C. on November 7, 8, and 14, 2008. The main theme of the concerts is a celebration of Senator Barack Obama’s victory.