Kenyans react to Obama victory
By Susan Linnee Posted Nov 18 2008
It was about 7 a.m., Nov. 5, when Kenyans learned that Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan father, would be the next president of the United States.
Although radio is the most widespread medium of communication in the country, many Kenyans witnessed this historic moment through the medium of television. By the time the results were finally announced, many had been glued to television sets since before dawn, watching the results on live feeds from CNN, BBC World Service, MSNBC and Al Jazeera English.
Celebrations immediately broke out across the East African nation that, eight months earlier, had suffered through two months of post-election violence that left at least 1,200 people dead and another 350,000 displaced. And nowhere was the celebrating more passionate than in southwestern Kenya, home of Obama’s father’s Luo tribe. For the many Luos who danced through villages, towns and the streets of the regional capital Kisumu as they waved traditional celebratory tree branches, the moment was especially sweet; they are convinced that their own presidential candidate, Raila Odinga, was cheated out of victory in the Dec. 27, 2007 presidential election.
Scores of local and international journalists were positioned outside Kogelo, the tiny village in Siaya district that is home to Sarah Onyango Obama, Obama’s grandmother. There, family members had been gathering for days amid the media onslaught. Following the Luo celebratory tradition, several black bulls were roasted for a victory feast. About a week before the election, the Kenyan government had graded the road leading to the house, and workers from the Kenya Power & Lighting Company were busily running the first electric wires in the village—or the surrounding region—to the house. The police were also building a station nearby intended to provide round-the-clock surveillance.
The newspapers that went to press Nov. 5, when the polls had been open for just a few hours in the United States, carried optimistic headlines: “OBAMA,” said The Standard; “Obama Leads,” said The Daily Nation. The following day, The Standard bannered “The Obama Sensation,” while The Daily Nation went with “The First Family: How Obama Won by a Landslide.” Both newspapers were packed with Obama-related stories from agencies and Kenyan correspondents in the U.S. There were also full-page ads from local businesses such as Telkom Kenya, which trumpeted the Kiswahili phrase “Hongera Rais Barack Obama,” meaning “Congratulations, President Barack Obama.”
East African Breweries, whose down-market Senator beer had been affectionately dubbed “Obama” by hundreds of thousands of drinkers, launched a special edition President brew for the occasion.