Katrina evokes questions in Africa over racism,
refugees in U.S.

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) - Images of poor, black Americans
homeless and in despair in the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina are resonating in Africa, evoking pointed
questions about racism and surprise that disasters can
wreak havoc and leave refugees even in the prosperous
United States.

"So much for the land of liberty," read one unsigned
commentary in Nigeria's This Day newspaper, adding
that some televised images of Katrina's victims in
Louisiana "could actually be mistaken for Rwanda."

On Thursday in hurricane-hit New Orleans, U.S.
soldiers cradling M-16s flanked out across the
swamped, disease-infested city as officials readied
thousands of body bags. Indeed, the scene was
reminiscent of any African tragedy of recent times.

"Who would have thought that over a million American
citizens would become 'refugees' in their own country
and flay their government for its failure to come to
their aid" quickly enough, read an editorial in South
Africa's The Star newspaper. "Or that in the most
advanced society in the world ... the badly injured
would be left for dead because of a lack of

Some Africans say the U.S. government's allegedly
bungled response to Katrina revealed a society more
divided by race and money than most Africans had
previously thought.

"Most of the hapless survivors who filled New Orleans'
Superdome were black, with the more affluent white
residents able to flee in their SUVs before Katrina
brought her misery," the Star said.

"At a deeper level, it means that even in the fabled
America, the poor get left holding the short end of
the stick," This Day said. "These are some of the
contradictions that should spur review and soul
searching; that amid such stupendous wealth and
affluence, a puzzling circle is still drawn to exclude
the poor."

Not all pointed to racism. Martin Tarluway, who
described himself as a concerned Liberian, speculated
that the disaster-struck region may have been a victim
of neglect because it was a Democratic stronghold.
Alhaji Kromah, a candidate in Liberia's upcoming
presidential elections and a former warlord, said
America has simply been overwhelmed by an enormous

"This should be a wake-up call for the international
community to collaborate with the United States to
ensure that public facilities such as the ones in the
affected area are improved," Kromah said.

Prince Gonway, a Liberian teacher, was uninterested in
assigning blame.

"We share in the grief of the victims," he said. "But
at times these things happen for people to know what
hardship really means, what it means to be a refugee
in your own country."

Liberia, founded by former American slaves, is just
emerging from a long and disastrous civil war.

Charles Onyango-Obbo, a managing editor of Kenya's
Nation newspaper group, wrote: "Thanks to Katrina, I
now know that some places of America have never seen
schools and electricity just like in rural Africa."

Onyango-Obbo saw racial bias in the handling of two
similar photos he said appeared in the American press
- each of a man carrying soft drinks and bread.

"The caption to the photo of the white man said he had
'found' food to save his family. The one of the black
man said he had 'looted' the items," he said. "Never
mind that both men probably got the items from the
same store."