KOGELO, Kenya - Paved roads, electricity, running water: Barack Obama’s ancestral home has seen much change in the past four years and residents spent a sleepless night yesterday as they watched the poll results.
On the eve of the US presidential elections, reporters descended on this small village in western Kenya, nestled in the hills about 60km from the glittering blue waters of Lake Victoria.
Draped over the road that connects the village to Kisumu, the main town of the region, a banner offers tickets for an all-night screening of the election.
“Watch the American presidential election 2012 on big screen” the advert read, and, despite even the cheapest ticket costing some $12 – about a week’s wages for a casual labourer – that did not dampened enthusiasm.
“I’m going to watch the election all night long. It’s expensive, but I’ll manage,” said Mary Manyala Ohito, a health worker.
In the courtyard of the nearby primary school – renamed after Obama following a visit in 2006 when he was a senator – a giant screen was also set up, with free access for the local residents.
Sarah Obama, 90, and the third wife of the paternal grandfather of Barack Obama – still lives in Kogelo.
While the president shares no blood with “Mama Sarah”, he has said he regards her as his grandmother.
In the final hours ahead of the result, Mama Sarah remained cloistered in her home, guarded by round-the-clock police.
“We’ll be staying together with the family watching it together until the result is announced,” said Said Hussein Obama, an uncle of the president.
Four years ago at the last elections, Kogelo was a different village: few places for a cold drink in the shops, while televisions were powered by thumping generators.
Today, while Internet is still slow, hotels are developing, some providing access to cable television channels.
“There has been lots of changes here,” said Dorothy Babu, Kogelo Village Resort manager, one the main hotels.