Kenya: Nation Erupts in Ecstasy at Obama Election

5 November 2008

Kogelo Village, Western Kenya — Kenya is ecstatic at the news of Barack Obama's historic election as president of the United States. Upon hearing news of their beloved "son's" win Wednesday morning (East Africa Time), residents of Kogelo village burst into song and cheers of joy.

Kogelo, about 50 kilometres from Kisumu, the capital of Nyanza Province, is home to Barack Obama's Kenyan relatives, and is where his father, Barack Obama Sr. was born.

About 50 foreign journalists have been reporting from the village over the past week in hopes of capturing just such a moment. However, the Obama family has kept relatively quiet, choosing to make statements to the press through their elected family spokesperson for the week, Obama's half-brother, Malik Abango .

Following today's announcement, journalists were invited to a section of the Obama homestead to join some members of the family to view Obama's acceptance speech. The relatives, along with some neighbors, cheered, sang and gave the "thumbs-up" sign at Obama's words.

In a brief press conference following the speech, Abango told journalists the family wants to express "extreme gratitude and appreciation of the American people."

This "gratitude" is evident outside the homestead as well. American flags, stars-and-stripes-themed clothing and slogans praising America are highly visible today. One very small, sleepy restaurant in Siaya town, the nearest town to Kogelo, was playing CNN International to a small but rapturous audience, one of whom was wearing an American flag hat.

The Obama family's life in Kenya will be different from here out. Beyond being the center of international media attention, the family will have new responsibilities in their village.

"Things are going to change [for us]... We have projects... We have to provide for our people," Abango said. As for the rumors of a Kenyan-style Obama homecoming to Kogelo, Abango said: "I know right now that if you check his appointment book, I bet you he'll get here as soon as he can."

But what will will an Obama presidency really mean for Kenya, where Obama, who scarcely knew his Kogelo-born father, is held in such esteem?

Abango said that Kenyans can take away the values of "true democracy, and what humility is all about."

The Kenyan government has declared a national holiday this week in honor of Obama.

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