Kenyans’ Hopes are High after Obama Seals Nomination

Josphat Kasire, AP, June 4, 2008

Hoisting plastic cups of “Obama” beer and gathering around television sets, Kenyans celebrated Wednesday as Barack Obama laid claim to the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination.

Some hoped for promises of more U.S. aid to Africa, while others simply wanted to bask in the glory of a successful black politician with Kenyan roots. And in this region of western Kenya, where the candidate is seen as a local son, Obama’s Kenyan relatives described him as a great hope for both Kenya and the United States.

“It would be good if he becomes president of the United States,” Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah Hussein Obama, told The Associated Press in her tribal language, Luo. “Barack could help build schools in Kenya, hospitals, help the orphans here. It would be a blessing.”

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“God willing, I would like Mr. Obama to be the first black African to be president of the United States,” said William Ochieng, who was among a crowd in Kisumu toasting Obama with a brew called Senator Keg — nicknamed “Obama” beer since the U.S. senator’s presidential campaign took off.

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Barack Obama has visited his Kenyan relatives three times in Kogelo, and his step-grandmother has gone to the U.S. twice. She says they are close, although they have to speak through an interpreter.

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Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Obama’s success was “a momentous occasion in history.”

“Today marks a pivotal moment for the United States. The decision by the white majority electorate to vote for an African-American for such an august position is a vibrant indicator of the long distance the US has traveled from its history of slavery and racial discrimination,” he said in a statement.

{snip} Mutua did not comment on the election Wednesday, but Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Richard Onyonka said the candidate was “a son of Kenya.”

“We hope that he will not forget Kenya when he becomes president,” Onyonka said. “He will be much more receptive to African issues. Africa needs somebody who understands Africa.”

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