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05.11.2008 Kenya

Obama's Kenyan home ready to party

By Juliet Njeri - BBC News, Kogelo
Obama's Kenyan home ready to party

A sleepy trading centre in western Kenya has turned into a beehive of activity as the United States prepares to elect a new president.

Dozens of local and international journalists have descended on Kogelo, where the father of the US presidential hopeful Barack Obama was born and raised.

Religious leaders are leading an inter-denominational service.

After the service, the religious leaders and other residents will join Mr Obama's grandmother, Sarah Onyango, at their home where TV screens have been put up to allow residents to keep vigil.


Kogelo residents speak of their hopes for Barack Obama's victory

The area does not have access to electricity and many residents do not have TVs.

After months of being in the spotlight, the residents have learned to take it all in their stride.

There is a palpable air of excitement as they look forward to the elections and the future of a man they consider one of their own.

Mr Obama's name is on everyone's lips. Young and old are all hoping for the same thing - his victory.

His grandmother, Sarah Obama, and the rest of the family are holed up in their heavily guarded homestead.

Only close family and invited guests can make it past the hawk-eyed policemen who have set up a post inside the homestead.

For now, the family wants to monitor the historic elections in private.

Bulls for slaughter

But Malik Obama, the Democratic party candidate's half-brother, admits that the family is already planning a grand celebration after the elections.

"It goes without saying that everybody is extremely happy and excited and looking forward to celebrating after the elections," he said.

The family is not considering the possibility of Mr Obama losing.

The Obama family have invited everyone for a victory bash

Plans for a big party are already in place, and a bull has been set aside to be slaughtered for the festivities.

Mr Obama's family says everyone is invited.

"Bring a couple of sodas," they say.

Mr Obama's paternal relatives are not the only ones whose eyes are set firmly on victory and looking forward to a big party.

For Mary Atinga, and others, the party has already begun.

"He's our fellow villager and in Kogelo, we are in another USA now. We are just rejoicing and we are very excited."

Like most of the residents, she thinks that if he wins, the area will benefit immensely.

Wish-list

This belief is also shared by children.

Residents are grateful for the repair of the road to Kogelo

Students at the Senator Obama-Nyangoma Primary School - renamed after Mr Obama's visit in 2006 - already have a wish-list for a President Obama.

Sixteen-year-old Eliud Ochieng wants new school buildings to replace the old ones, and he also wants some new desks.

Abigail Atieno, who remembers singing a song for Mr Obama during his visit to the school two years ago, wants a new school.

Many residents of Kogelo hope that an Obama presidency would translate into development of the area.

Already, there is one development that has spread smiles on the faces of the residents.

The 5km dirt road that leads to the trading centre is undergoing a makeover.

The villagers hope this is just the beginning.

Indeed, most Kenyans secretly hope that his connection to the country will bring good tidings.

Although many readily admit that this might not happen, they say that will not change how they feel about him.

"He's our friend and we love him. Anything he will give us, we will appreciate it," village resident Augustine Oduor says.

Obama cocktail

In the nearby city of Kisumu, a group of youths held a mock parallel election, with six ballot boxes in different locations around the city.

Lawrence Oyange of the Big Time Comedians group, says more than 2,000 people cast their vote for the next US president.

There has been a mock election across Kisumu city

The results will be announced later on Tuesday, but the results are predictable - Mr Obama's rival, John McCain, will be lucky to garner even one vote.

Parties have been organised all over the city, with many planning to stay up all night to watch the results come in.

Bars and hotels will remain open all night to allow customers to keep up with the news.

Large screens have been erected at the Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground in the middle of the city and hundreds of people are expected to gather to watch the results come in.

Police say they anticipate big celebrations if Mr Obama wins, but are ready to deal with any eventuality.

In January, the city was the scene of running battles between members of the public and police after riots broke out over the Kenya's contested elections.

Traders selling Obama memorabilia are cashing in on Obama's popularity, with memorabilia ranging from T-shirts and wall clocks on offer.

Hotels and other business in the city are also doing brisk business from the hordes of local and foreign journalists and other visitors who have descended on the city.

An Obama Kiboko Yao (Obama is the best) cocktail containing vodka, juice, mint and soda water has been created to be served to guests at a city hotel.

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