Kenya and East Africa - Drums Sounding for Barack Obama

This three-part view of Obama from Kenya comes from  Above the fold is the Kenyan/East African reaction.  Below the fold is a recollection of Barack's visit to his paternal grandmother in Kogelo.  Finally, there is a striking editorial citing our "imperfect elections" as an example for Kenya's future.

From The Standard, the view from Kenya.  

Barack Obama's story, quite simply, is the stuff of fairy tales.

And he announced his arrival on the America's national stage with a cautionary reminder: "Let's face it," he said in that thick baritone, hypnotising the US Democratic Convention in 2004 - and the world - ever since. "My presence on this stage is pretty unlikely. My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya."

Later tonight, Obama is poised to make history as the first African-American president, the only one since their country's independence in 1776.

There seemed to be no stopping for the Democratic candidate, who last evening was ahead of the Republican John McCain in six of eight key battleground states, according to a series of Reuters/Zogby polls.

And drums of victory were already sounding across Kenya and East Africa last night, with Ugandans arriving in droves in the lakeside town of Kisumu to join in the celebrations.

Coast hoteliers announced special Obama night to last till morning, where patrons are expected to eat and drink to their fill as they monitor the poll results.

The situation was no different in other major Kenyan cities and towns where entertainment spots are expecting booming business from revellers keeping wake to monitor the US election.

After one of the costliest campaigns in history, Obama or McCain will today be voted the 44th president of the USA.

Alaska is expected to be the last state to close polls at 9am tomorrow morning, by which time it shall be possible to deduce who shall have taken an early lead, and safely on the way to becoming the next American president.

If that happens to be Obama, then Kenya shall provide a footnote to this edifying story, where it all began.

After the jump, When Obama Slept on the Floor

In a separate story, Harold Ayodo recounts Barack's first visit to Kenya.

In 1987, because a bed that the Illinois senator was to sleep on could not get into his grandmother's hut, he slept on the floor.

Those who had an encounter with the Senator said there was nothing special about the 26-year-old other than that he was born in America.

"A carpenter (now deceased) made a bed for him. But it was too big, and could not pass through a door to Sarah's house," recalls Bernard Onyango, 60, a retired civil servant.

In the morning, Obama carried his grandmother's sukuma wiki (kales) to Kogelo market where it was sold. In the evening, he would help her carry her groceries in the dirty, tattered sack his back.

"He wore a white trouser and a red shirt. He greeted me as he offloaded the vegetables in a sack," Gladys recalls.

Obama helped his grandmother sell sukuma wiki at Nyang'oma 21 years ago.

Those who met him say he was humble and unassuming.
In Dreams from my Father, Obama says he made his first trip to his ancestral home before he entered Harvard Law School.

He rode in a bus from Kisumu with his step-sister, Auma Obama, to Nyang'oma Kogelo where he met his grandmother.

A photo of Obama carrying the sack of vegetables on his back as she watches hangs on the wall of 86 year-old Sarah's house.

"The picture on the wall is one of my best, it reminds me of how he helped me sell vegetables at the market," says Sarah.

Obama has visited the village three times -- the last in 2006 when he was on an official tour as Illinois Senator.

Sarah, who says the first visit proved that her grandson was hardworking, believes in his campaign message of `change'.

"He (Obama) is exactly like his father -- an ordinary man who did extra-ordinary things."

Sarah says Obama was eager to learn Dholuo. "His being here did not bother us as he was down to earth and happily ate ugali and traditional vegetables," she says.


As the United States goes to the polls to choose between Barack Obama and John McCain, she will be relying on a complex, imperfect electoral system whose failings have in the past seen a presidential election decided in court.

Her faith in this system and in institutions created and nurtured in two centuries of independence means that a close election or a surprise outcome, whatever contention they might spark, will be accepted by either candidate and their supporters on their say-so.

We could learn from their experience. Electoral reform in the US is ongoing. The country saw spectacular failures in election technology in 2000 and 2004. These included mechanical machines that allowed voters to pick more than one candidate or prevented voting, and electronic ones open to tallying fraud. Two million ballots were rejected in 2000, when a few hundred votes made all the difference.

Disenfranchisement, a key issue for the civil rights movement and in 2000 (in Florida which had voter purges) continues: There are worries about voter registers in use today and people being turned away at polling stations. Armies of lawyers stand ready to do battle over these flaws.

The US does not need a perfect electoral system to deliver a credible result. This is because its people and institutions are largely committed to ensuring electoral integrity. As we begin reforms of our electoral systems, it may do us good to reflect on this. If we don't, 2012 will find us at war over minor imperfections.

Tags: kenya, obama (all tags)


1 Comment

We're Feeling Very Good Today.

These stories made feel even better!

by January 20 2008-11-04 03:47AM | 0 recs


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