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Kenya erupts in joy over Obama victory

KOGELO, November 5 – Hundreds of villagers in Kogelo, Barack Obama’s Kenyan family homestead, erupted into song and dance at the news that the nation’s favourite son had won the US presidential election.

Swinging twigs and chairs in the air, men cheered and clapped while women ululated and shouted "Obama! Obama!" in the village where his grandmother lives and where his late Kenyan father was born.

"Senator Obama is our new president. God has answered our prayer," said pastor Washington Obonyo, who had prayed for an Obama victory on Tuesday and through much of the night.

"I am very happy, I have not slept the whole night, even my wife slept alone as I waited for the results," said Joseph Otieno, a jubilant Kogelo resident.

"Because Obama has won, we will have a change in the whole world. And for that I will slaughter a cockrel to celebrate with my family."

Wild celebrations woke the sleepy village, people hugged each other as others ran aimlessly in the muddy streets after spending a chilly night glued to a giant screen watching results unfold on the US networks.

"God bless all Americans and Kenyans," said Kevin Amollo. "I am very happy.

"We feel really good about the victory," added Roselyne Ayaro, another reveller, waving a placard bearing Obama’s picture.

The residents had braved a heavy downpour and deafening thunderbolts overnight, dancing and singing to choruses belted out by a live band at a local dispensary.

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Children and youths gyrated to the songs, the lights of an army of international TV crews casting shadows on the tarpaulin tents.

School children danced around the tents before heading to school as police officers kept watch.

In the city of Kisumu, the regional provincial capital, huge screens were also mounted at a city park where hundreds turned out Wednesday morning after catching a few hours’ sleep.

Others crowded restaurants and shops to witness the first accession of a black man to the White House.

"It’s sweet victory for us. He should look into helping us, the people of Kenya," said Walter Oyoo, holding his bicycle above his head.

"At least our dream of free and fair elections has finally come true. We were painfully robbed here in Kenya, but Obama and America have shown the world what true democracy is all about," said Tom Nyanjong, a primary school teacher.

Kisumu had on Tuesday declared Obama the winner of the presidential contest in mock polls held by two local comedians.

President Mwai Kibaki was among the first foreign heads of state to congratulate Obama and gave Kenyans one more reason to rejoice when he declared Thursday a public holiday in a statement issued minutes after Republican John McCain conceded.

"This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya. The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success," he said.

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Small groups gathered in a handful of Nairobi bars exceptionally open all night, as well as at the US embassy and the capital’s main conference centre, erupted into cheers.

Strong opinion poll forecasts throughout the past week and early projections from some key states had however prompted many to head back to sleep before Obama’s win was confirmed, confident the homeboy would become "the first Kenyan in the White House".


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