Residents of Kenya want Barack Obama to return to their country and to rule over them.
“We need an Obama here in Africa,” grumbled Humphrey Oguto, a 27-year-old engineer. “He’s done a lot in just a little time. . . . Our leaders have done nothing for years.”
Photographs of the US President are omnipresent in huts, shantys, marketplaces, and businesses throughout the country. His image has also been plastered on buses and minibuses, known as matatus, in Nairobi, Mombassa, and other cities throughout the country.
Most Kenyans believe that Mr. Obama was born in their country and has more in common with them than with the American people.
Obamamania in this Third World African country reached fever pitch when the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s awarded their Peace Prize to the fledgling U. S. President for “his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms and defuse tensions through diplomacy.”
“When I heard it [the announcement of the award] on the radio I said ‘Hallelujah!'” says 65-year-old James Andaro. “It’s God’s blessing, this win is for Africa.”
In the Kenyan city of Kisumu, the capital of the home province of Mr. Obama’s father, radio shows interrupted broadcasting to have live phone-ins so callers could congratulate the president on his win. Many callers claimed that the President had been born in their city of 273,400 people and not Honoloulu, Hawaii.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki issued this statement of congratulations to the U.S. leader for capturing the Nobel Prize: “I have no doubt that this award will give new impetus to your efforts to bring about lasting peace in areas where war has ravaged communities over long periods of time. I also encourage you to continue opening the avenues of dialogue in order to bring about a better understanding among the family of nations.”
Mr. Obama has not visited his Kenya since his inauguration amid concerns over poor governance in the African country. More than 1,000 people were killed in riots that followed Mr. Kibaki’s narrow re-election in 2007. Observers described the polls as deeply flawed.
Sitting on a plastic chair outside her compound in the quite village of Kogelo, Sarah Obama told The Associate Press she believes her step-grandson’s surprise win is a gift from God.
The announcement was met with joy in Kenya, which has a special regard for Obama, the son of a Kenyan economist and an American anthropologist.
Radio shows interrupted their programming Friday, and traders in the market huddled around hand-held radios and touts yelled the news to each other from the windows of local minibuses known as matatus. Many are already decorated with Obama’s picture.
Sarah Obama said she learned of the award from Auma Obama, one of the president’s Kenyan stepsisters, who called from the United States.
She defended the president from those who say he has received the prize too early, saying it “is God-given, whether it is too early or not. But if you deserve an award you get it.”