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Kenyans Celebrate Obama's Inauguration

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Kenyans Celebrate Obama's Inauguration

Kenyans Celebrate Obama's Inauguration

Kenyans Celebrate Obama's Inauguration

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Kobama, Kenya, is the ancestral home of Barack Obama's father. Residents there have been writing songs in honor of the president-elect.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We are hearing voices from overseas on this Inauguration Day, and that includes the voices of people in Kobama, Kenya, the ancestral home of President-elect Obama's father. Residents have been writing songs in Obama's honor, like this one.

(Soundbite of African tribal music)

INSKEEP: That sound was recorded by NPR's Gwen Thompkins who's with us now from Kobama. And Gwen, what's the song about?

GWEN THOMPKINS: Well, the song is pretty much about what all the songs are about. People are thrilled that Barack Obama, the president-elect, will be taking office today. They're wishing him well. And they're also cautioning him that it's time to make good on his campaign promises.

INSKEEP: Cautioning. So this is not entirely just cheering that - well, I don't want to say the hometown guy - but the guy with an ancestral connection to Kenya.

THOMPKINS: Well, I think that people here are extremely proud. I mean, people are really bursting at the seams. At the same time, I mean, Kenyans have gone through their own presidential election not so long ago, and they are keenly aware that winning the election is an amazing feat, but making good on one's campaign promises is the whole reason that everybody shows up at the polls in the first place.

INSKEEP: So, given the time difference, I guess it'll be evening in Kobama when Barack Obama takes the oath in Washington, D.C. Are people planning to watch or listen?

THOMPKINS: Oh, my goodness, yes. There are going to be jumbo screens set up in Nairobi, also in Kisumu, which is the regional capital of southwestern Kenya, and as well as in the ancestral homeland of Mr. Obama's father and where his step-grandmother is living.

INSKEEP: Are there a lot of televisions - I mean, is there a lot of communication in Kobama?

THOMPKINS: That's an excellent question. Where we are right now is southwestern Kenya. This is near Lake Victoria, actually. This is very far from Nairobi. And in this area there aren't very many television sets. In fact, there's not a lot of electricity. And so this is a public service, and people are really going to gather around these televisions because this is going to be their only chance to see Mr. Obama in action.

In southwestern Kenya it's also important to know that not everyone speaks English and not everyone is going to understand what Mr. Obama says during his speech, his inaugural speech. But what many people have told me in the weeks leading up to this event is they don't really need to understand English in order to realize the importance of this event and in order to feel as if one of their own sons has reached such a vaulted office in the United States.

INSKEEP: NPR's Gwen Thompkins is in Kobama, Kenya. Gwen, thanks.

THOMPKINS: Thank you, Steve.

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