U.S. popularity highest in Africa
Uncle Sam has some African fans. As first lady Laura Bush tours the world's poorest continent, a new report charting global attitudes shows...
The Associated Press
LAGOS, Nigeria — Uncle Sam has some African fans.
As first lady Laura Bush tours the world's poorest continent, a new report charting global attitudes shows America's image sagging around the globe — but not in Africa.
"The American society is a model of success that is a dream to Ivorian youth," says Mohamed Diarra, a 30-year-old in Ivory Coast, where some 88 percent of the population holds a favorable view of the United States — the highest in the world according to Pew Global Attitudes report released this week.
Ivory Coast, Ghana and Kenya hold America in higher regard than the fourth-highest national admirer of America: The United States itself, where about 80 percent of respondents held a favorable view of the country.
Hundreds of people were interviewed face-to-face in each of 10 sub-Saharan African countries — Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The margins of error ranged from 3 to 4 percent.
In most countries, the United States was viewed positively by some three-quarters of adults. Only Tanzania, with 46 percent of respondents expressing positive opinions about America; South Africa with 61 percent; and Uganda with 64 percent bucked the trend.
The "American dream" of advancing through hard work resonates on this continent, where the United States lacks the colonial baggage of other Western nations, and where hip-hop, rap and rhythm and blues provide much of the soundtrack of African life.
Debate on global issues, like the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is limited. American might, despite how it may be applied, is seen even among its detractors as potentially beneficial.
Toward the end of the 1989-2003 civil war in Liberia, citizens in the rebel-besieged capital of Monrovia deposited their dead at the gates of the U.S. Embassy, hoping for protection by American military forces.
Weeks later, the U.S. was instrumental in ending the war in the West African nation, founded in the 1800s by freed American slaves, its "Lone Star" flag modeled on the stars and stripes.
For many Ivorians, America is the anti-France, with its long colonial history. Government-allied militia leaders have worn American flag bandannas and peppered their rousing speeches with English.
"For me, a French [person] is an imperialist, a terrorist," said Jonas Kouadio, a 27-year-old student. "And Americans fight against terrorists."
Even in many sub-Saharan African Muslim lands, America scores high marks.
In Senegal, where Mrs. Bush received a warm welcome at an AIDS hospital this week, some 69 percent of those polled said they held a favorable view of America. By contrast, in Indonesia — the world's most-populous Muslim nation — only 29 percent of respondents viewed the United States favorably.
The practice of West African Islam is generally less strict than in the Middle East or North Africa and hasn't yet become politicized as it has in other regions.
The Pew study released this week found 94 percent of Christian Nigerians viewed America favorably, but only 49 percent of Muslims did.
"I hate America since it started the war against terrorism, because it considers all Muslims as terrorist," said Aliyu Yusif, a 31-year-old street trader in the northern Nigerian city of Kano. "If America can change its policy on terrorism, America will be cherished by all Muslims because of the aid its gives to weaker nations."
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