Obama's Kenyan family celebrate victory

2012-11-07 15:50
Sarah Obama, step-grandmother to USA's President Barack Obama, rejoices with members of her family in Kogelo, Kenya following Obama's re-election victory. (Tony Karumba, AFP)

Sarah Obama, step-grandmother to USA's President Barack Obama, rejoices with members of her family in Kogelo, Kenya following Obama's re-election victory. (Tony Karumba, AFP)

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Kogelo - Singing and dancing, the ancestral village of Barack Obama celebrated on Wednesday the re-election of the son of their soil, who won because he knows how to "love all people", his grandmother said.

Crowds stayed up throughout the night in Kogelo, a small village in western Kenya nestled in the hills about 60km from the blue waters of Lake Victoria, until the results showed Obama had won.

"The reason why he has won is because God has given it to him," said Sarah Obama, 90 this year and the third wife of the paternal grandfather of the president, who has said he regards her as a grandmother.

"Secondly he has got the knowledge to love all people, he doesn't have the knowledge of division, that is why he has won," she added, speaking in the Luo language to reporters on the lawn outside the family home.

Weary from an all-night vigil but happy at the win, people cheered to welcome her - known popularly as "Mama Sarah" - and in support of the victory.

Praise

"It was tough this time, nothing like last time," said 35-year old Calvin Odinga, a chemist. "But we were so happy Obama made it."

In Nairobi, Prime Minister Railda Odinga praised a win he said would "reignite faith worldwide, but especially in Africa, in the restorative capacity of democracy to deliver change and discard entrenched divisions".

President Mwai Kibaki offered his own congratulations in a statement to Obama. "Kenya, as always is proud of our association with you," he said.

For Obama's grandmother, the re-election was more important than his win four years ago. "He came back a second time, and he won," she said.

But she also sought to quell the disappointment of many Kenyans who had hoped for a visit from the president during his first term. "We cannot be bitter," said Mama Sarah.

Long night

Many in Kogelo stayed up all night as the results trickled through, some splashing out to attend coverage shown on a big screen at a hotel despite the €12 ticket - a small fortune for many people here.

But others gathered in a small dark room nearby, with diehard supporters refusing to go to bed until the announcement was made.

The first part of the night, as the gap narrowed between Obama and his Republican opponent Mitt Romney, was difficult.

"I was hoping... I knew Obama's strongholds would be revealed later," said Frederick Odinga, a local government official.

Cheers


It was not until around daybreak in Kogelo, when the news television stations announced the winner, that the village exploded into cheers.

On the way to school, some children, mostly barefoot, paused for a few minutes around the small crowd of shouting supporters, some in tears, calling out "Obama, yes!" to the gathered reporters.

Some would still like to see Obama focus more on Africa, and Kenya.

"He didn't come to Kenya, he really disappointed us," said Jack Koyoko, 32, a carpenter.

The US president visited only Ghana on the continent during his first term.

However, thanks to the spotlight given by the first election of Obama, the once simple village of Kogelo has changed much in four years. The main road is now paved and there is electricity and running water in some homes.

"We hope he will do more," Koyoko added, as he joined the others in the celebrations.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  kenya  |  us elections 2012  |  east africa
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