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Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu says that President Barack Obama‘s background and race will help him influence African leaders.

The anti-apartheid icon says Obama would be freer to make demands on African politicians because he can tell them: “Look here you guys, I am one of you, don’t let me down.”

“They can’t accuse him of being a neocolonialist,” Tutu said during a visit to London Thursday. “Complexion helps.”

Tutu was speaking at the launch of a report on the Group of Eight’s aid commitments to sub-Saharan Africa. As the discussion turned to the issue of African leadership, Tutu said Obama would be in a good position to influence Africa’s ruling class.

Obama plans to attend the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, from July 8-10 and is following the meeting with a visit to Accra, Ghana _ his first presidential stop in Africa.

Obama, America’s first black president, has roots in Kenya.

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