Monday, 3 November 2008

Kenya's Hopes for the US Elections

“US Poll: Why the world backs Obama” was the headline in today’s Daily Nation, one of Kenya’s major newspapers. According to the report, Barack Obama is the world’s choice for the next President of the United States. That’s certainly been the feeling here in Kenya the entire election campaign, though very little has been mentioned about his policies, or where he stands on today’s current issues. He is Kenyan (or at least his father was), and therefore the country, it seems, is with him. A number of matatus have had his picture emblazoned across their rear window; I’ve overheard a father in a supermarket teaching his toddler to say, “Obama”; I’ve seen people wearing “Support Obama” T-shirts…. You’d think the election was here! Within African culture, people look after their own. It would appear that such expectations extend to those brought up in the US and Indonesia by an American mother and grandparents. There have been forecasts in the media over the last year of Kenya’s fortunes being on the rise should Obama be elected. In Sunday’s Nation, a number of people being interviewed anticipated tourism increasing due to people flocking to Kenya to trace Obama’s roots (not that he ever lived here!). His Kenyan branch of his family is clearly behind him: “Senator Barrack Obama’s relatives have congregated at Nyangoma Kogelo village and will remain together until after Tuesday’s US presidential elections. They have set aside a bull to slaughter in celebration should the Illinois senator, whose father was Kenyan, win.” Whichever way the election goes, I can’t help thinking that many Kenyans are going to be disappointed. I guess though that it’s taken the focus off last year’s controversial elections here for a while.

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