Marion Barry strode the aisles of Monrovia's Unity Conference Center this afternoon shaking hands with African leaders here and brimming with excitement at his reception.
"Sekou Toure wants me to come to Guinea, [Gen. Olusegun] Obasanjo wants me to come to Nigeria. They all want me to come," Barry said. "It's fantastic. I've got to come back. I can't do it all in one trip."
On the fifth day of his two-week foreign trip and his first visit to Africa, Barry grew ever more wide-eyed.
"I'm really amazed at the amount of respect I've gotten," he said. "Here we are in Africa at the OAU conference. They just mention 'mayor of Washington' and people perk up."
He attributed the hearty response to the high status of mayors in Africa. Africans, he added, are also impressed that he is "black and the head of the nation's capital."
As he described his conversations with African leaders yesterday, Barry one minute would confide, "I'm accustomed to being around influential people." Then the next minute, he would be bubbling with wonder about "black people who are leaders of countries!"
Barry was escorted here by Koko Farrow, whom he introduced earlier, in the tour as a "social activist" in his official party.
She described herself as an African affairs specialist for the United Church of Christ and a last-minute addition to his traveling entourage.
Barry said some of the African leaders warmed toward him when Farrow explained his history as a civil rights activist in the United States.
He said he felt an especially close kinship with Sekou Toure of Guinea because of his pioneering role in African independence. Toure saluted him with kisses on both cheeks. The mayor said they talked of pan-Africanist Stokeley Carmichael, a Toure protege now living in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.
Barry also said he felt "right at home" after listening to the opening addrress to the OAU meeting of Liberian President William C. Tolbert. The mayor said he found Tolbert's speaking style "similar to some American speakers with a little Baptist and politics."
Barry was greeted at Roberts Field here this morning by Monrovia Mayor Edward David and his family. David's 3-year-old daughter Miatta, her yellow hair ribbons matching her buttercup dress, handed Barry's wife Effi a bouquet of carnations.
It was a weary entourage that stepped off the plane. Barry's Pan Am jet set down here fully 22 hours after it's scheduled arrival from Daker, Senegal, where it was delayed when one engine lost power before takeoff Monday morning.
Barry said David informed him that "this kind of failure is not uncommon with this airline in Africa." He said he intended to write Pan Am "the strongest kind of letter I can" upon returning to Washington.