Kenya’s Favorite Son Does It Again

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In the dead of night, residents of Kogelo sat wrapped in blankets, staring anxiously at the only big screen in Obama’s ancestral home. They were not only hoping to witness the re-election of Barack Obama.

(Capucine Dayen in KOGELO, Kenya)

The announcement of the results seemed to flick a switch- the atmosphere became electric with hundreds of villagers clapping and cheering for “Kenya’s favorite son” who had won his second term as President of the United States.

One local resident, who had stayed up all night shouted, “I’m happy, very happy. It was a tight race and I was not expecting what has just happened. We want him to work hard and keep fulfilling his duties. We are very proud.”

Obama’s 91 year-old step-grandmother, Sarah Onyango Obama, led the early dawn celebrations, singing and dancing with relatives and friends outside her home. During a press conference, she congratulated the US President for his hard work and the example he has set across the world, wryly adding “We, in Kogelo can produce intelligent people”.

Kogelo, a rural village located some 400km north of the capital Nairobi, has seen major changes since the election of Barack Obama. His popularity put Obama’s father’s home on the map, with the Ministry of Tourism pumping in generous resources. “We just had new roads and we’ve seen electricity which we never had. There is also a big hotel and more is coming”, explained one of Barack Obama’s stepbrothers, Moustapha Obama.

However, many are disappointed that Barack Obama has not once visited the east African country, Kenya, since he took office. His lack of involvement throughout the continent has also been highly criticized, dashing hopes that his African origins would push him to be more engaged.

Some believe Obama’s second-term will allow him more freedom to tour the continent, “He’ll definitely come the second time around” said Martin Joseph, a local shopkeeper.

But while the majority of the country was rooting for Obama to win the elections, others admit that Republican and opposition candidate Mitt Romney could have brought a new dynamism to the White House.
Denis Motelin, a taxi driver, explained, “I believe in change, I don’t believe in monopoly. He may have good policies but it’s good to have a new product of leadership so that we can experience what other people can offer.”

Kenya will be hosting its own presidential elections in March 2013. Many fear violence and chaos may erupt like the previous 2007 elections and admire the democratic process that the American elections demonstrated. As Charles Babu Karan, who works in the country for commission, said wistfully, “The kind of democracy in the US is beautiful and a wonderful example and I am just praying that we follow suit.”

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