Obama wins: Kenya believe it?

Anwar Tambe writes from Kenya for SkyNews, Nov. 5:

It is scarcely believable, but it is true. A Luo can become President—of the United States of America, if not Kenya.

I must admit I had a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye during Barack’s victory speech. The son of a Kenyan immigrant becoming leader of the free world within a generation. This global village thing—it is a funny old game.

I grew up in Kenya at a time when the political landscape was dominated by the rivalry between Luos’, the tribe from which Barack’s father hails, and the Kikuyus.

That rivalry spilled over into murderous violence at the end of last year when it seemed that Raila Odinga, a Luo, would finally defeat his Kikuyu rival and incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki.

Raila is the son of Oginga Odinga, who together with Jomo Kenyatta, led Kenya to independence from Britain in 1963. But Oginga never got a sniff of power. On Kenyatta’s death, President Moi—a Kalenjin—took the reins of office.

Supporting Oginga or indeed any opposition, often meant being carted off in the middle of the night and being banged up in one of Kenya’s many foul prisons. It happened to one of my relatives. We had no idea if he was dead or alive until he turned up two years later.

Little could I have imagined that sitting in a newsroom in West London a quarter of a century later I would be watching a U.S. electorate sending the son of a Luo goat-herder to the White House.

So can a Luo ever become President of Kenya? The answer perhaps is in the current favourite slogan on T-shirts in Kenya—‘Ndio Tunaweza!’

Its Kiswahili for ‘Yes, We Can’.

See our last posts on Barack Obama and Kenya.