- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya | From the shantytowns of Kenya’s capital to the rural homestead of Barack Obama’s relatives, thousands of Kenyans slaughtered goats, hoisted American flags and partied into the night Tuesday as a man whom they see as one of their own ascended to the world’s most powerful office.

In Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera slum, residents raised a U.S. flag and declared Kenya to be America’s 51st state. In the village of Kogelo, where President Obama’s father was born and some family members still live, 5,000 people gathered and 10 bulls and six goats were slaughtered for a luxurious feast during a crippling food crisis. Women dressed in colorful print cloths performed traditional dances to the rhythms of cowhide drums.

“Yes, yes, yes,” shouted Maurice Odoyo, 34, joining hundreds of people trying to catch a glimpse of Mr. Obama’s speech on a 12-inch television set up in a clearing in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. “His father comes from this country. Mr. Obama will remember us, how we are suffering.”

The election of a black American president with African roots stands as a powerful symbol on a continent where so many people’s hopes are hobbled by crushing poverty and corruption. Also, in Kenya - a struggling country of 38 million riven a year ago by a deadly postelection crisis - Mr. Obama’s presidency was a source of pride and inspiration.

Kibera is a stark reminder of the poverty in a country where one in five people get by on less than a dollar a day. The slum is a maze of tin-roofed shacks where raw sewage flows through dirt tracks. On Tuesday, children wearing Obama T-shirts huddled by a bonfire to keep warm.

Despite Kenya’s problems, Mr. Obama’s victory has enthralled the nation.

“We missed the Kenyan presidency, but we got a bigger one, the American throne,” Seth Oloo, a physician in the western town of Kisumu, told the Associated Press.

Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii, where he spent most of his childhood raised by his mother, a white American from Kansas. He barely knew his late father, an economist from Kogelo. Mr. Obama has visited his Kenyan relatives three times there, and his step-grandmother Sarah and other relatives traveled to Washington for the inauguration. She says they are close, although they have to speak through an interpreter.

Since Mr. Obama was elected, the road to Kogelo has been tarred, and the government has brought in electricity and water. Local youths hope Mr. Obama will bring factories for them to work in.

Samuel Omondi said that if Mr. Obama could bring such changes, he was welcome to take over from Kenya’s scandal-wracked government.

“I hope Kenya to be one of the American states,” the 33-year-old Kogelo resident said.

At the biggest hospital in nearby Kisumu, Christine Aoko named her newborn daughter Michelle, after Mr. Obama’s wife.

“I hope my girl will grow as tough as Michelle,” Mrs. Aoko said.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide