Having just returned from my trip to Kenya, I saw firsthand how Obama’s Kenyan roots are a matter of national pride there. Obama’s face graced the papers almost every other day, and our taxi driver proudly told us he was of the Luo tribe and came from the village adjacent to Obama’s ancestral hamlet. Hearing him talk about how Obama inspired him was a moment of genuine patriotic pride for me – people worldwide are looking at America and saying, truly, it is the land of opportunity – and they are inspired, not to go there, but to bring America home and change their own nations by our example. Consider the opinion of students in Nairobi:
Like many young Kenyans, they said they identify more with Obama
than with their own political elders, whom they hoped Obama would shake
up by example.
“His election has already offered a great challenge to leaders here, through his values,” said Maranga, 27.
In particular, students said they hoped Obama would shame politicians into rising above tribalism.
“When people speak of Obama, we don’t say he’s Luo Obama,” said Ogega,
27, referring to Obama’s Kenyan ethnic group. “We say he’s Kenyan. We
hope he will help us see each other as Kenyans instead of certain
The “Obama fever” isn’t limited to Nairobi, either:
In the lakeside town of Kisumu in western
Kenya, the birthplace of President Obama’s father Barack Hussein Obama
Senior, a three-day “Obama Speaking” competition reached a climax with
youth who took part in the competition declaring the incoming US
president “Obama Tosha” – Kiswahili for “Obama Only.”
before has the US presidential election been the subject of intense
interest in the East Africa nation, which Obama regularly visited
before he became an Illinois senator in 2004.
television stations interrupted normal programming to focus on history
in the making, as the man billed by Kenyans as one of their own reached
the climax of long and tortuous journey to the most coveted perch in
Traders in Nairobi lined up Obama
memorabilia, while entertainment spots have lined up events to
celebrate the elevation of the first black man to the highest office in
In Kogelo, villagers and visitors from all walks of life thronged the Kogelo Primary School grounds and danced the night away.
Others had their eyes glued to a giant TV screen mounted by Kenya’s premier television station, KTN.
The screen brought home images of ‘their son’s’ big day, thousands of miles away at Washington DC.
The compound bustled with activity all day, but suddenly went quiet as images of Obama being sworn-in as President rolled on the screen at dusk.
“Ling’uru Obama osechako wuoyo” (Be quiet, Obama is already talking), a male voice boomed from a loud speaker.
Photo caption: Kenyans gather to celebrate the inauguration of US president Barack
Obama on January 20, 2009 in Kisumu. Excitement continues to mount in
Kisumu the headquarter of Kenya’s Western province as the “Son of
Kenya,” a term increasingly used to refer to Obama due to his Kenyan
father, as Obama is about to be sworn in 44th US president and the
first black one. In his inaugural address, Obama said : “we have chosen
hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord,”. AFP
PHOTO/ SIMON MAINA