All-Night Election-Watch Party in Obama’s Ancestral Village
All-night eleciton-watch party in Kogelo, Kenya, President Obama's father's village. (Image credit: Ben Curtis/AP Photo)
KOGELO, Kenya – The people of this typically sleepy village in rural western Kenya who call President Obama their “favorite son” know this will probably be the last party like this in their lifetime, so they aren’t planning to miss a minute of it.
Hundreds of Kogelo residents are either dancing the night away or are wrapped in shawls and blankets while camping out patiently on plastic lawn chairs in front of a large television screen waiting for election results that aren’t expected to come in before 7 a.m. local time.
Obama’s late father grew up in Kogelo. His step-grandmother, Sarah Obama, and other relatives still live here.
If Obama wins, this party could go on until Friday,” said Nelly Misiko at the Kogelo Village Resort where the village’s lively election-watch party is being held. The hotel, recently built for the tourists who now come to Kogelo, is an example of how the historic 2008 election of the first U.S. president with African heritage has changed the village, and why people here are holding prayer vigils for his re-election.
The president wrote about his journey to Kogelo to explore his absent father’s family history in his best-selling memoir, “Dreams from My Father.” When Obama returned to visit the village again in 2006 as a U.S. senator, little had changed. But when he became a contender for president two years later, international media descended on the village, and with that attention came development.
The government built a paved road into Kogelo, strung power lines to provide electricity to businesses and homes, and some aid agencies expanded operations to include Kogelo. In addition to the two new hotels, which were built to accommodate foreign tourists, President Obama’s half-brother Malik Obama has built a new recreation center where the Kenyan flag and U.S. flag fly side-by-side.
Residents of Kogelo are nervously awaiting the results of the U.S. election not only because they feel a kinship with President Obama but also because he is the man who put their village on the map, and they believe more development will come if he spends more time in office.
And if the election doesn’t go the way they hope?
“This party will be over right away, but we don’t believe that can happen,” said Misiko.