Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sleepy Kogelo village transformed overnight

Kenya Power and Lighting Company workers connect the village of Kogelo to the mains on Thursday. Photo/ DAN OBIERO 

By DANIEL OTIENO and WALTER MENYA

The Kogelo village and the Obama family have undergone a complete metamorphosis, literally.

The change was evident immediately after the man whose roots are in the village became the leader of the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America.

Talking to Mr Barack Obama, according to his brother and family spokesperson, Mr Malik Abong’o was an ordinary affair before Thursday.

Everyone’s lips

“We spoke last night, he told us he was doing great. He was happy that we are fine. We congratulated him and wished him well in the new challenges that come with the presidency,” said the first born son of the Obama family.

Although grandmother Sarah Onyango Obama did not speak to the media on Thursday, all she could say to visitors who had come to congratulate her was “Nyasaye duong” (God is great).

And despite the rainy day and the muddy paths, the once sleepy village hosted thousands of visitors on Thursday, driven by a curiosity to see the roots of the man whose name is on everyone’s lips.

The world spotlight is firmly on the hitherto sleepy village because President-elect Obama’s late father, Mr Barack Obama Snr, was born here.

According to Luo customs, a child belongs to the father, hence the strong bonds of kinship to the American president-elect in Western Kenya.

A second bull and several goats and sheep were slaughtered on Thursday as celebrations entered the third night.

Bearing gifts

And one of Prime Minister Raila Odinga aides, Mr Samuel Aduol delivered five bulls from his boss with a congratulatory message that he (the PM) would be visiting soon.

Busloads of students and curious visitors from as far as Tanzania and Uganda drove to the village, with some bearing gifts for the family.

American nationals in Kenya also thronged the home in what they described as an encounter with the roots of the man who now holds the world’s destiny in his hands.

Although the Obama family said on Thursday that they would not like to be treated differently, the signs point to the fact that they are no longer simple villagers.

“We can no longer account for who is who in the home — people danced the night away and today’s holiday gave many an opportunity to come to the home,” said Mr Abong’o.

Before Wednesday, the road leading to the homestead was a bumpy path that was a driver’s nightmare whenever it rained. But by Thursday, it had miraculously been cleared and levelled.

Fresh coat of paint

Kenya Power and Lighting Company was expected to have connected electricity by Thursday night. This is a complete contrast to the situation when Mr Obama visited three years ago.

Then, Mama Sarah lived in a semi-permanent house which has since been rebuilt and is sparkling from a fresh coat of paint.

The compound, which was surrounded with indigenous shrubs, has since been fenced and boasts a police post manned 24 hours a day by eight officers.

The police were deployed to the home after thieves tried to steal the family’s solar panel.

Siaya District Commissioner Boaz Cherutich on Thursday said that security had been beefed up to cope with the influx of visitors.

The main road passing through the village to Bondo town, which was until last week no more than a dusty and bumpy path, has undergone major repairs in what Mr Abong’o last week said was just but a sign of things to come.

Not shed light

The family draws water from a well at the corner of the homestead but in the new scheme of things, this is likely to be a thing of the past.

The nearby Nyang’mo Kogelo secondary school acquired the name Senator Obama Secondary School soon after Mr Obama was elected to the US senate.

School officials could not shed light on whether the name would be changing to President Barack Obama High School.

The village has suddenly become the most well known in the Western Kenya region, if not in the world, as visitors come from near and far to see the home and the people from whose lineage came the first African-American president.

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