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Entries in Kogelo (2)

Wednesday
Nov072012

Kenyan Village Cheers Obama Victory as ‘More Meaningful’ Than the First

TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(KOGELO, Kenya) – Toward the end of an all-night election dance party in this rural village that claims President Barack Obama as a “son of the land,” an exhausted crowd sat shivering under shawls and blankets on plastic lawn chairs, watching the first results come in from America.  There was an unusual hush as early returns showed Mitt Romney ahead, but soon the count changed and the tension broke.  When a television news anchor projected President Obama would be re-elected, a new wave of energy swept over the crowd.

Residents of Kogelo leapt to their feet, singing a traditional Swahili gospel song and waving branches.  They danced over to the home of the president’s late father to celebrate with his 90-year-old step-grandmother.  “Mama Sarah,” as she is known here, beamed proudly at an impromptu press conference for the crush of reporters who have once again descended on the town for reaction from the U.S. president’s Kenyan relatives.

“The first reason why he won is because he is blessed by God. The second one is that he worked hard for his people,” Sarah Obama said through an interpreter.  “This election is more meaningful because it was not just euphoria but the decision of Americans who have seen his work.”

Residents of this typically sleepy village in rural western Kenya are not just celebrating the president’s re-election victory because of a sense of kinship; they said they have high hopes a second term will directly affect their lives.

“He has brought honor and glory to this community.  He has placed this community on the map,” said Sayid Obama, who called himself the president’s uncle.

Kogelo’s connection to the U.S. president has brought it more attention from the Kenyan government and some charity groups.  The village now has a paved road, electricity, new wells, and two new hotels and restaurants serving foreign tourists.

“Many guests have come around. Everyone has benefited. Shopkeepers have been selling small things,” said Nicholas Rajula, who says he was inspired by President Obama to try to find his own success as a businessman.

Rajula recently built the Kogelo Village Resort hotel and says he hopes international interest in the area will increase the pace of development.  Others say they are celebrating a victory for all people of the world — what they believe is evidence of a changing attitude toward race far beyond their village.

“Blacks and whites are the same,” said local teacher Alice Babu.  “It should be a lesson for everyone that we should not underrate people. We are all equal. It is only that given opportunity, then it can be seen.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov062012

All-Night Election-Watch Party in Obama’s Ancestral Village

TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(KOGELO, Kenya) – The people of this typically sleepy village in rural western Kenya who call President Obama their “favorite son” know this will probably be the last party like this in their lifetime, so they aren’t planning to miss a minute of it.

Hundreds of Kogelo residents are either dancing the night away or are wrapped in shawls and blankets while camping out patiently on plastic lawn chairs in front of a large television screen waiting for election results that aren’t expected to come in before 7 a.m. local time.

Obama’s late father grew up in Kogelo. His step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, and other relatives still live here.

"If Obama wins, this party could go on until Friday,” said Nelly Misiko at the Kogelo Village Resort where the village’s lively election-watch party is being held.  The hotel, recently built for the tourists who now come to Kogelo, is an example of how the historic 2008 election of the first U.S. president with African heritage has changed the village, and why people here are holding prayer vigils for his re-election.

The president wrote about his journey to Kogelo to explore his absent father’s family history in his best-selling memoir, Dreams from My Father. When Obama returned to visit the village again in 2006 as a U.S. senator, little had changed.  But when he became a contender for president two years later, international media descended on the village, and with that attention came development.

The government built a paved road into Kogelo, strung power lines to provide electricity to businesses and homes, and some aid agencies expanded operations to include Kogelo.  In addition to the two new hotels, which were built to accommodate foreign tourists, President Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama has built a new recreation center where the Kenyan flag and U.S. flag fly side-by-side.

Residents of Kogelo are nervously awaiting the results of the U.S. election not only because they feel a kinship with President Obama but also because he is the man who put their village on the map, and they believe more development will come if he spends more time in office.

And if the election doesn’t go the way they hope?

“This party will be over right away, but we don’t believe that can happen,” said Misiko.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio