President Obama’s reelection has stirred wild celebrations in Nyang’oma Kogelo, the birthplace of his father, Hussein Obama.
In the village about 415 kilometres (258 miles) west of Nairobi, Christian and traditional songs reverberated alongside African drumbeats and dances early in the morning as Obama’s win was announced on international TV channels. The village was tense and prayerful for weeks as Obama and Mitt Romney faced off for the United States presidency.
“I thank the people of Kogelo for supporting and praying for my grandson. I thank American voters for reelecting my grandson … I want him to work harder and work with Romney,” says Sarah Obama, Obama's step-grandmother.
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki today called Obama's victory a reaffirmation of the American people’s confidence in Obama’s leadership and wished him good luck. “We are always proud of association with you,” said President Kibaki.
“Tonight’s electoral outcome will reignite faith worldwide, but especially in Africa, in the restorative capacity of democracy to deliver change and discard entrenched divisions,” Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in a different statement.
The villagers kept awake all Tuesday following the election, watching a giant television screen set up in the courtyard of the Obama Primary School.
“The people are now happy, inspired, and hopeful. Chicken and goats are being slaughtered in celebrations and the village is going wild,” says Nicholas Rajula, Obama’s first cousin. “We had gathered religious leaders overnight to pray as the results tricked in … God has answered our prayers.”
As polling stations opened in the United States on Tuesday morning, villagers in Kogelo gathered to vote for Obama and Romney in a mock election. Some waved America flags and dressed in shorts and T-shirts with the flag’s colors. Although Obama has an ardent following here, Romney also got some votes.
“The people are feeling proud. The pride is inspired by a feeling that their 'son' is leading the world’s greatest nation,” says Dr. Gerald Majany who teaches Law and Peace Studies at the Africa Nazarene University. “There are also good lessons for Kenya[n] politicians too; that politics is about issues, not tribe, race, or religion.”
Obama visited the village in 2006 to visit Mrs. Obama. His election in 2008 put the then-remote village on the world map, with the government installing access to electricity and water, and paving roads. Charities have also moved here to improve living conditions and the village hopes this will continue in Obama’s second term.