THE BLOG

Kenyans Party For Man They See As Their Best Hope

MILLIONS of Kenyans crowded into bars or gathered around giant public TV screens to welcome the man they believe holds out their best hope of delivery from poverty and hunger.
Never mind that he was elected by American voters. In the slums of Kenya, Barack Obama is viewed as an African president.

"He will effect change. There's a lot of corruption here," said Gerrard Otieno, as he stumbled out of the Urafiki Green Pub in the heart of Kibera, Africa's biggest slum. "This is the man that can change it."

Kenya is a country in need of hope.

This time last year it was mired in election violence that left 600,000 people homeless and 1500 dead.

This year some 10 million are at risk of hunger, prompting the government to declare a national emergency last week.

Attempts to lower expectations have made little impact in the land of Obama's father.

Here he is seen as Kenya's best hope of a prosperous and happy future.

Kepha Ngito, who runs youth projects in Kibera, said: "Many people are getting the wrong idea.
"Of course, there will be benefits to Kenya, but they will be indirect - things like moving Africa up the agenda - and many people here are expecting a sudden delivery of things like cash, jobs and services."

Kenya's political system rewards families whose sons and daughters progress up the greasy pole.

Politics is a byword for corruption and sleaze.

So while many see Obama as a role model for a new generation of African leader, others are expecting an injection of largesse.

"Obama will be a great president," said Mark Otete, 25, as he waited for the inauguration ceremony to begin. "He will make sure that many poor people will be able to move up in the world."

Thousands more people had gathered around him in the narrow dirt alleys and dusty clearings of Kibera to soak up the moment.

Chants of "Yes we can" drifted through the night air.

All week Kenya had been gearing up for Obama's moment of glory. Newspapers have been publishing souvenir editions, countless goats have been slaughtered and a popular local brew, Senator beer, has been renamed President for the occasion.

Thousands more people gathered yesterday at the tiny village in the far west of Kenya that the Obama family calls home.

Barack Obama Sr grew up in Kogelo herding goats before leaving to study in the US.
The grounds of the local school, where he would walk barefoot each day, were thronged by Kenyans taking a day off work to party. Luo dancers from Obama's tribe, draped in monkey skins, put on a traditional show while onlookers waved American flags.

Hawkers did a brisk trade in posters and badges.

Here the benefits of the Obama presidency are already being felt. The government moved quickly after his November victory to bring modern amenities to the tiny homestead that had been left behind by the 21st century.

For the first time, the Kenyan branch of Obama's family has electricity and water.

Now, the rest of Kenya is waiting to see what benefits will come from an Africa-American in the White House.