Senator Obama, who has roots in Kenya, is the
first African American president of the United States. Residents of Nyang’oma-Kogelo
village in Kenya’s western Nyanza Province embrace him as a native son. They
will be watching with interest as he is sworn in. Reporter Ajanga Khayesi tells us about their reaction.
Village, in Kenya’s Siaya district, is the home of Mr. Obama’s father, and its
residents claim his son as their own.
is about 60 kilometers northwest of Kisumu, the capital of Nyanza Province. The
village is inhabited by the Luo people. Most are peasants living in houses with
walls made of mud and roofs made of sheets of iron.
a 30 km ride by motorbike taxi from Kisumu town along Bondo road to the
Nyang’oma market. The taxis charge two
US dollars per person, much more than most Kogelo residents earn in a day.
famous Obama family home lies 500 meters from Nyang’oma market, behind Kogelo
primary and Senator Obama secondary schools.
on a traditional three-legged stool under a mango tree in his compound is community leader John Onyango.
compound consists of a main house and three huts for his sons. He complains
about the heat and wind. A long dry spell has left the crops withering on the
farms. Some sheep graze in the shrubs and among the sparse
trees behind the huts.
describes a typical day in the village:
life," he says, "begins at around 5: 00 am with wives accompanying daughters ten kilometers
down the stream to fetch water. Farmers cultivate the
ancestral piece of land where maize, beans, cassava, millet and sorghum
are planted for domestic consumption. The rate of poverty here is high. Some
villagers work in the neighborhood as casual laborers, digging, weeding or
harvesting crops to earn a living. Travelers trek five kilometers to board
vehicles on the main road."
says modernity and tradition sit side by side in Kogelo:
"Residents," he says, "no longer stage wrestling, raiding or hunting for wild animals. The youth
prefer disco dancing, particularly Ohangla music, a traditional style that has
been modified with guitars, keyboards and other modern instruments. Residents
still observe very strong Luo traditions including marrying many wives, inheriting
widows, building houses, sharing family property among sons, protecting your
family and educating children."
Obama’s picture is everywhere in Kogelo – including the walls of shops at Nyang’oma
market. It’s a good business for Leornida Achieng, who says there’s a closeness
between Luo and Americans:
"The image of Senator Obama," she says, "became very common in the
locality on T-Shirts, calendars, CDs, DVDs. Along the main road some public
vehicles are christened Obama with many others displaying his presidential
campaign portrait. Kogelo Secondary School changed its name to Senator Obama
Secondary school in 2006."
"Although the American flags are not flying here," she says, "Kenyans
and [Americanis] are friends. The US government and US people ran many projects in
the Lakeland region especially through the churches. So many Luos are living in
Muslims and Christians live side by side in Kogelo. Some families include
both, including the Obamas, have both.
Obama family here in Kenya is large. The family compound in Kogelo includes the grave of Obama’s late grandfather,
Hussein Onyango, who was born in 1870 and died in 1975. Tom Omondi, who is
boarding a motorcycle taxi in Nyang’oma market, describes the family:
devoted people," he says,"hard working, and big-hearted for charitable work. In 1955, Barack
Obama, Sr., donated free text books and other learning materials to Kogelo
primary school. I was in class six at the time."The
village is in dire need of financial support, clean water, electricity roads,
medical facilities and better schools. Immediately after Obama won the
presidential election, the Kenyan government began constructing roads and electricity. Water access was extended
to the grandparents’ home.
expect the Obama administration to also contribute to extensive development and
income generating projects.
Sarah Obama disagrees. She is heading a
family delegation at the inauguration that includes three uncles and four
is warning the public against unreasonable expectations.
"Kenyans," she says, "should understand that Obama is the president for the Americans, but not a
leader in Africa or Kenya. Obama will work under the US government policies,
and his first commitment will be to solve US problems, like the US economy,
[and to improve] the country’s global image"And
in Kogelo, the residents will be marking the day with songs, dance and
thanksgiving prayers. They’ll follow the proceedings via satellite transmission
of US broadcasts.
residents refer to Mr. Obama in the loca luo
language as Ja-Kogelo, meaning "man from Kogelo." They view him as a man who
brought great honor to Africa, Kenya, Kogelo