Obama returns to father's grave

2006-08-27 11:38

Kogelo - US senator Barack Obama pushed through surging crowds and hurtled down roads lined with cheering admirers before settling into the calm of a quiet meal with his grandmother in the Kenyan hamlet where his father grew up and is buried.

Obama stopped at his father's grave for a few moments on Saturday before ending his rushed visit to the compound, a collection of small buildings, towering mango trees and assorted dogs and chickens.

"Anytime a child comes back to a parent's grave, it makes you reflect on your mortality and the next generation," Obama said, adding that he was especially happy to be able to bring his two daughters along.

Aids test

Obama also spent much of the day studying the toll Aids is taking on African families. He and his wife took Aids tests as thousands of people watched and he visited a project that helps grandmothers find the money to care for children orphaned by Aids.

Obama's 85-year-old grandmother, Sarah, met him at the foot of the small hill where her house sits and hugged him. Then they and Obama's family walked to the house amid a crush of relatives, friends and reporters. Someone carried a huge American flag as the crowd moved.

The family shared a meal of chicken, porridge, cabbage and more.

The Democratic senator from the state of Illinois, mingled the personal and the public throughout the day.

Warm reception

With his Kenyan heritage, Obama is getting a warm reception everywhere, but the reaction has been even stronger in this part of the country. It is home to the Luo tribe, which includes Obama's family.

One T-shirt at an Obama event showed a picture of the senator and the slogan, "The senator, the diplomat, the politician ... the Luo."

Kenyans have claimed Obama as one of their own, even though he was mostly raised in Hawaii and did not know his Kenyan father well. This is his third visit to Kenya but his first since being elected the United States' only black senator in 2004.

Obama's father, also named Barack, grew up herding goats and going to tin-roof schools, but he won a college scholarship in Hawaii. There, he married Obama's mother. The two soon separated, however, and Obama's father eventually returned to Kenya and worked as a government economist.