Kenyans Find Glory in Obama

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared today a national holiday to honor the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Obama, who's father was Kenyan, has become a hero in the East African country. NPR's East Africa Correspondent Gwen Thompkins discusses the significance of Obama's win and how people are celebrating.


I'm Michel Martin, and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. We have our weekly international briefing. We'll check in with journalists from around the world for reaction to the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. And perhaps the best place to begin is in Kenya. It's the birthplace of Obama's father and still home to many members of his extended family. There, the government has officially declared today Obama Day, and the country has been celebrating since news of Obama's win.

(Soundbite of celebrations)

MARTIN: To find out more about how Kenyans are reacting to Obama's victory, we called Thomas Chepsoi(ph). He's a reporter for Kenya's Kass FM Radio. Hi, Thomas. Welcome.

Mr. THOMAS CHEPSOI (Reporter, Kass FM Radio, Kenya): Hi, Michel. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm great. So tell me, what's been the reaction?

Mr. CHEPSOI: People moving on the streets, celebrating, wearing Obama T-shirts containing Barack Obama pictures. Yesterday, the president of this country, President Mwai Kibaki, made today a public holiday, on 6th, and a full celebration for the victory of Barack Obama who they describe here as a son of their own soil.

MARTIN: What is it that you think people are reacting to? Do you think it's a sense that relations between the U.S. and Kenya will change and be stronger, or is it something, perhaps, more personal?

Mr. CHEPSOI: What I would describe here is that apart from knowing that Barack Obama Hussein Senior, the father to Barack Obama was a Kenyan, it's absolutely one of the attachments that Kenyans feel that United States of America and Kenya is more of one nation.

MARTIN: Do you think that people see something in their own story about Barack Obama's ability to achieve this important office in America? Obviously, as the world knows, Kenya experienced a very difficult election over this past season. It was disputed for months, and there was a very great deal of violence attached to it. Is there something in Barack Obama's election in America that gives people a sense of hope in their country?

Mr. CHEPSOI: The election of Barack Obama is at least an eye-opener. It's a turning point for Kenyan politicians, and the leaders here at large have said so. They wish that Kenyan politicians and Kenyans like in Africa will emulate what the United States of America has done. It means(ph) Kenya is more of a tribal living, but surprisingly the election of Obama is - is they got a lot of citizens in the country of Kenya, is that the whole country (unintelligible) expected, and the election of Barack Obama is worthwhile.

MARTIN: Thomas Chepsoi is a reporter with Kass FM Radio in Kenya. He joined us on the phone from Nakuru town in western Kenya. Thomas, thank you so much.

Mr. CHEPSOI: You're welcome, Michel.

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