Kenyans Celebrate Obama Victory

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - A carnival mood overtook a tiny village in Kenya's Nyanza province this week as news filtered back that Barack Obama had been elected to the U.S. Senate.

The new senator from Illinois, who delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention and is considered a rising star in the party, is the son of a Kenyan economist who died in a 1992 road accident in Nairobi.

Villagers thronged to the rural homestead of the senator's grandmother, Sarah Hussein Obama, 82, who said she had not slept while waiting late into the night for news of her grandson's victory on her transistor radio.

Declaring herself to be "very happy," the grandmother, a devout Muslim, said the family would slaughter two bulls to celebrate once the Ramadan fast-month is over.

Relatives expressed the hope Obama's victory would have a positive spin-off for the family and the country.

They hoped he would help Kenya get U.S. aid money, and also work to advance the cause of the wider developing world.

Excitement about Obama's election spread across the region inhabited mostly by peasant farmers.

In the lakeside community of Kisumu, supporters celebrated his victory by drinking a brand of beer known as Senator -- now nicknamed "Obama."

At the New Nyanza Hospital, Millicent Anjwang named her newborn baby Barrack Obama, Jr. in honour of the senator.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki weighed in, saying Obama has proved a role model not only for American youth but for many young people in Africa.

Many Africans had been following Obama's campaigns, which "exhibited a high degree of innovation, professionalism and vigour," he added.

"We hope it will build our global image," Muchiri Karurim, a Nairobi university student, said of Obama's election, who easily defeated former presidential hopeful Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate race.

The 43-year-old will be the only African-American in the 100-member Senate.

He was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan economics student, Barack Obama, and his wife, a white American. The marriage was short-lived, and Obama's mother later married an Indonesian.

Obama attended elementary school in Indonesia for two years before returning to Hawaii. He later attended Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

He has visited his Kenyan ancestral home twice, in 1998 and 1992.

Although some local commentators have argued that Obama's ties to Kenya are weak -- so tenuous as to almost be nonsensical," one wrote -- media here have followed the campaign since he declared his candidacy 18 months ago.

Over the past month, an East African regional newspaper has been serializing Obama's 1995 autobiography, Dreams from My Father.

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