Barack Obama’s Kenyan family erupted in cheers Wednesday, singing “we are going to the White House!” as Obama became the first African-American elected president.
In the western village of Kogelo, where the Democratic candidate’s late father was born, police had tightened security to prevent hordes of media and onlookers from entering the rural homestead of Obama’s step-grandmother, Sarah.
But the elderly woman and several other relatives came outside Wednesday to cheer for Obama in a country where the Democrat is seen as a “son of the soil.”
Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a public holiday in honor of Obama’s victory.
Across Africa — where Obama is wildly popular — people stayed up all night or woke before dawn Wednesday to watch the U.S. election results roll in. In the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, people chanted “Obama! Obama!” as the results were announced on television.
“He’s in!” said Rachel Ndimu, 23, a business student who joined hundreds of others at the residence of the U.S. ambassador for an election party that began at 5 a.m. “I think this is awesome, and the whole world is backing him.”
Many 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 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.
Hundreds of chanting people marched through the streets of Kibera shantytown, one of Africa’s largest slums, cheering Obama’s win.
Samuel Ouma, 36, said the victory alleviated some of the pain suffered in December after Kenya’s disastrous presidential election, which unleashed weeks of violence.
“We finally have got the stolen election,” he said.
Gibson Gaitho, 14, said he does not believe an Obama presidency will change his life much but said he is inspired by the rise of a man with Kenyan roots. His teachers at Mangu High School in Thika brought the students to watch the results at the ambassador’s residence in Nairobi.
“As Kenyans we feel proud,” he said. “But we know Obama will be working for the United States.”