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Western Kenya Shows Keen Interest in US Presidential Campaign


U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama is a big hit in western Kenya, where his father was born and raised. Many see Senator Obama as a bridge between Africa and the United States, while others simply are proud of his Kenyan roots and consider him an inspiration. Cathy Majtenyi visited the Obama family homestead and other parts of western Kenya and files this report for VOA.

Sarah Obama, or Mama Sarah as she is affectionately called, may have a grandson who could be the next U.S. president.

But the 86-year-old farmer and businesswoman, remembers Obama as a young man eager to lend a helping hand. "Barack came here when he was 25 years old to attend the burial of his father. He liked to help me carry things to the market. When I was carrying things, he would do the same," she said.

Sarah Obama's tidy homestead is located in the western Kenyan village of Nyangoma-Kogelo.

It was here where Barack Obama's father was born and raised. The village has renamed a secondary school in honor of the U.S. senator and Democratic Party presidential candidate.

Also named after Obama is this brand of beer called Senator, commonly referred to as ‘Obama’.

From the major western Kenyan city Kisumu to the village where the Obama family lives, many Kenyans are excited about Barack Obama's campaign to win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and go on to the U.S. general election in November.

Kevin Omondi operates a rickshaw, known locally as a tuktuk. He says he is watching the race very closely and has this advice for Obama.

"I will tell him to continue campaigning up to (the) presidency. If he has taken the presidency, (then) he (should) come to Kenya and give us thanks, because we are the supporters of him," Omondi said.

Omondi says the fact that Obama has roots in the area's Luo ethnic community is a big plus.

Musician Joseph Ogutu Ogwanjo plays a traditional Luo instrument called nyatiti.

He has composed several songs in honor of Barack Obama.

"We are behind you," Ogwanjo said. "If God wishes, remember me when you get the presidency. Send your wife to come and pick me up and take me to America so that I can hold concerts there."

Graphic artist Wycqliffe Ochieng' says he has printed and sold 1,000 Obama T-shirts, and expects to sell more. "We are waiting for the right time just to hit the market, and we want to be sure he is a presidential candidate," he added.

And expectations are high that an Obama presidential win will make a big difference to the people of Kogelo, Kenya, and the continent as a whole.

Nelson Ochieng' is a neighbor to the Obama family in Kogelo.

"Barack's presidency will put us on the global television networks," he said.

All eyes in western Kenya are on the campaign unfolding half a world away, where their son is trying to make history for the United States, Kenya, and all of Africa.

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