8 June 2018

Kenya: K'ogelo Readies to Rollout Red Carpet for Barack Obama

Nyang'oma village in K'Ogelo, Siaya County is a colourless, dusty and sleepy village.

Famous for being the birthplace of Barack Obama's father, Hussein, it often doesn't produce tea, fish or coffee, worth national headlines.

But now the villagers have hope the lull will explode into prolonged celebrations when Obama, the retired US President, visits on July 16.

The planned visit will be part of Obama's tour of Africa, where he will also be expected to attend the fifth memorial of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela.

He last visited K'Ogelo in 2006, as Illinois Senator.

PROJECTSHowever, in 2015 when he visited the country as US President, many were disheartened by his failure to visit the village.

Though this trip could largely be ceremonial, many residents believe it could provide the necessary impetus to revive stalled programmes.

Mr Peter Odero, 37, says he is hopeful that several projects that have been initiated, mostly by the national government, will be completed.

"We had started feeling ashamed as a community. Most projects that had been initiated in this area have been neglected, exposing us to ridicule. However, with the good news of our son's return, we can now walk with our heads high," he said.

BUSINESSMr Nicholas Rajula, who owns White House Resort, a restaurant said: "We thank God that our son will now be coming back home. This will be a good business opportunity."

His joint was rendered desolate after a fire gutted it down last year but he is rushing to have it repaired, hoping to cash in on Obama's visit.

When he became President, Obama, a US citizen, inspired a rapid rise in infrastructure projects in K'Ogelo.

On the day Obama won the US Presidential election on November 5, 2008, then President Mwai Kibaki declared it a national holiday and the government started building roads, improving schooling facilities and other projects such as piped water and electricity.

Mr Obama did not invest in K'Ogelo, but his Presidency provided the necessary kick to change the face and fortunes of the village.

When he retired, pessimism set in and hopes for a brighter future were shattered.

YOUTH CENTRE

South East Alego MCA Joseph Mboha said they were looking forward to "reaping big from the visit".

"This is a very good opportunity for us not only as K'Ogelo community but also as a County and Country," he added.

Mr Obama's relative, who requested not to be named, said the former US President will preside over the official opening of K'Ogelo Resource Centre that is expected to train youth in various courses.

"He will come with his sister Auma Obama and officially open the resource centre. Ms Auma has been instrumental in the construction of the project that will benefit the youth," he said.

VISITSThe one-day visit will see Mr Obama hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, before he travels to his ancestral home to see his relatives.

He will not be accompanied by members of his family.

This will be the first visit to Kenya after he left office on January 20, last year.

He has visited Kenya three other times in 1987, 1992 and the high profile visit in 2015 when serving his second term as President.

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