Kenyans rev up to celebrate an Obama victory
KISUMU, Kenya ” Africans flocked to all-night parties, set off fireworks and hoisted cans of “Senator” beer today, determined to celebrate a moment in history as Barack Obama tried to become the first black American president.
“Tonight we are not going to sleep,” said Valentine Wambi, 23, a student at the University of Nairobi, where hundreds of students were holding an election party in the Kenyan capital. “It will be celebrations throughout.”
In Nairobi’s Kibera shantytown, one of the largest slums in Africa, hundreds gathered around a massive bonfire of burning tires. Residents joyfully held up Obama posters, blew whistles and waved American flags.
“We will be here until morning, and we will continue with celebrations if Obama wins,” said organizer Sam Ouma, 32. “If Obama loses I don’t know what this crowd will do.”
Obama, the son of an economist from Kenya, is wildly popular across Africa. Many people hope an Obama presidency will help this vast continent, the poorest in the world. Some are looking for more U.S. aid to Africa, others simply bask in the glory of a successful black politician with African roots.
“Obama, being partly African, has the moral obligation to intervene in Africa,” said Samuel Conteh, managing editor of The New Citizen newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone. “The aspirations of Africans are very high, believing that he will change the social and economic situations of Africans.”
Those hopes come even after President George W. Bush made a special effort to combat disease and promote democracy in Africa.
Obama was born in Hawaii, where he spent most of his childhood reared by his mother, a white American from Kansas. He barely knew his late father. But that has not stopped “Obamamania” from sweeping the continent, and particularly Kenya, where his picture adorns billboards and minibuses.
In the western village of Kogelo, where the Democratic candidate’s late father was born, police tightened security today to prevent hordes of media and others from entering the rural homestead of Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah.
Earlier in the day, Sarah Obama attended an open-air religious service where local bishop Ogonyo Ngende offered prayers for the candidate’s maternal grandmother, 86-year-old Madelyn Payne Dunham, who died late Sunday in Hawaii.
“I think this is one person he could have wanted to be there and witness him becoming the president of the United States of America,” Obama’s uncle, Said Obama, said in Kogelo, referring to Dunham.
In Uganda, hundreds of university students booked a hall on campus in the capital, Kampala, to watch the results.
“We will feast if Obama wins,” said Makerere University student Robert Rutaro.
Kenya’s two main newspapers ran Obama stories on the front page.
The Standard newspaper also offered a 16-page “Obama Magic Souvenir Pullout” with photos.
The mass daily newspapers in Nigeria, Africa’s most-populous nation, were running rare multipage inserts with U.S. electoral coverage. Headlines in The Sun called Obama a “Black Phoenix” and declared in advance of an expected Obama victory: “One Giant Leap for Mankind.”