Obama s Kenya fief set for long night

November 4, 2008 12:00 am

, KOGELO, November 4 – In western Kenya Tuesday, relatives, friends and a bull ready for slaughter were massed around the homestead of Barack Obama’s late father, awaiting a hoped-for victory for their new favourite son.

The East African nation where the Democratic White House hopeful’s father was born has temporarily changed its clocks to US time, with many determined to stay up all night to watch the television coverage of the US election results.

The rutted, dusty road leading to the Obama family home in the rural village of Kogelo, about 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of the provincial capital Kisumu, was being paved by the government and technicians were wiring up a giant TV screen for election night.

"The reason we are here is that we are looking forward to a great day to celebrate," said Malik Obama, the candidate’s step-brother, rubbishing any suggestion that his relative might not become the first black US president.

"We are not considering that possibility. I am not," he said confidently.

Security is tight at the homestead of Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, where police have set up a camp, providing 24-hour security.

Obama was born in Hawaii where his father, whom he is named after, was studying at university and had a short marriage with a white American student, Ann Dunham, before returning to Kenya where he died in a car crash in 1982.

Leading in US opinion polls over Republican rival John McCain, Obama received some added support in Kenya with special prayer sessions and even a victory prediction from a local witch doctor.

A football tournament brought the only bad omen of the weekend when a team christened Obama FC lost in the knock-out stages.

In Kisumu, capital of the Luo tribe from which Obama’s Kenyan family originates, residents were planning street processions and parties to celebrate their anticipated Obama victory.

"Our best sign of solidarity will be to march in the streets to thank him (Obama) for his big struggle," said John Ouma, a local vendor, adding that suitable quantities of alcohol had been reserved for the occasion.

"We want to give Kisumu residents an opportunity to come together and celebrate Obama’s victory," said Mary Awino as she distributed flyers inviting people to an "Obama After Party."

"Wang’ni to marwa wuod Alego," read the flyers — Luo for "This is our turn son of Alego" — referring to the region in which Kogelo village is located.

A mammoth billboard bearing a picture of a smiling Obama was erected as "a goodwill message," said Peter Odoyo, a former MP who runs an advertising firm.

"We are not campaigning and we are not voting in America either, but we want to stand by our son," Odoyo told AFP.

Kenya enjoys good relations with the United States, but many here feel that an Obama presidency would give their country a special place in US diplomacy and improve their daily lives.

In the house next to Sarah Obama’s tightly-secured home, Janet Oselu hoped that her next-door neighbour’s grandson would help them get jobs.

"I hope that he can help us by opening up firms that can employ the people," said Oselu as she fed her baby porridge.


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