KOGELO, Kenya • Waving her walking cane and smiling broadly, the step-grandmother of Barack Obama celebrated Wednesday as this tiny Western Kenyan village danced and rejoiced after the United States president won four more years in the White House.
Kogelo, a dirt-road town where children play soccer in bare feet, was the home of Barack Obama’s father, and claims several relatives of the president among its population. The family matriarch is Sarah Obama, who was married to the president’s late grandfather.
"Take the great job that people have given to you and lead them well," Sarah Obama advised her relative by marriage after his victory. "They have shown immense love to have voted for you."
Residents hoisted branches of green leaves, red plastic chairs and even one-speed bicycles into the air to celebrate Obama’s win.
"The community is happy. The community is waking up from their sleep to come and celebrate," said Kennedy Rajula, the president’s cousin.
Sarah Obama is the second wife of Obama’s paternal grandfather. Obama referred to her as "Granny" in his memoir, "Dreams from My Father," and described meeting her during his 1988 trip to his father’s homeland and their awkwardness as they struggled to communicate.
Kenya takes great pride in its association with Obama, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga told The Associated Press that the election victory was a great day for the U.S. and Kenya.
"Obama’s victory has proved that it was not a fluke the first time round, that the American society has changed, that the people of America have now, basically living the American dream of a people who are united by race, by religion, by ethnicity and so on," Odinga said. "People are prepared to work together to build their country."
Kenya has its own presidential election coming up in March. The country’s last vote in late 2007 turned devastatingly violent, and more than 1,000 people were killed. Many people in Kenya vote along tribal lines, adding to the tension, but Odinga said the U.S. vote showed that elections should be decided based on issues.
"This is what we should learn from these elections, American elections, and try to see if we cannot replicate it here in Kenya, that we move away from personality based campaigns or ethnic based campaigns and move toward issue-based campaigns," Odinga said.
John Githongo, a former adviser to Kenya President Mwai Kibaki on ethics and governance who resigned and then exposed hundreds of millions of dollars in government corruption, said Obama enjoys "an unprecedented level of trust" among the people of the world, though he said there are some in Kenya who worry the U.S. will now begin cracking down on corruption and tribalism in Kenya. "Many leaders thrive on corruption and whipping up tribal sentiments to consolidate political support," he said.
Eric Lugalia, a 31-year-old pilot, said he is excited Obama won again. "It also motivates us before our elections. Him being Kenyan, it motivates us to vote wisely for leaders who can bring change, unlike voting along tribal lines as we do."
Associated Press report Andrew Njuguna in Nairobi contributed to this report. Odula reported from Nairobi.
World reaction to Barack Obama’s victory
President Barack Obama’s re-election in the United States elicited strong feelings — from optimism to skepticism — around the world. A sampling of global reaction:
“One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis (in Syria). Above all, congratulations to Barack. I’ve enjoyed working with him, I think he’s a very successful U.S. president and I look forward to working with him in the future.”— British Prime Minister David Cameron, on a visit to Syrian refugees on the Jordanian border.
“Your re-election is a clear choice in favor of an America that is open, unified, completely engaged in the international scene and conscious of the challenges facing our planet: peace, the economy and the environment.” — French President Francois Hollande.
Pope Benedict XVI sent a message to Obama expressing hope that “ideals of liberty and justice, which guided the founders of the U.S.A., may continue to shine on the road ahead for the nation.” — Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.
“When you were elected in 2008, you inspired the world with a call to take responsibility for the problems we face as global citizens. Since then, you have made earnest efforts to live up to that great hope and trust placed in you by the American public. I believe you have been re-elected now in recognition of that effort.” — the Dalai Lama.
“The bond between Europe and North America, based upon the shared values on which our alliance was founded over 60 years ago, remains as strong, and as important to the preservation of Euro-Atlantic peace and security, as ever. President Obama has demonstrated outstanding leadership in maintaining this vital bond.” — NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
“I will continue to work with President Obama to preserve the strategic interests of Israel’s citizens.” — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has had a strained relationship with the American president over Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“During the last four years when Obama was U.S. president, no breakthrough happened in relations between Iran and the US. At the beginning of his first term the situation was a bit better, but as he went on the relations got much worse, with the sanctions being imposed. So I think the outcome of the elections that was just held will not make any difference for Iran.” — Amir Karimi, a resident of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
“As a mother and as a grandmother who raises boy children, I think that the symbolism of having a black man occupy the highest office is something that can make my children very aspirational to know that this is possible, you know, in their lifetime” — Zindzi Mandela, daughter of former South African President Nelson Mandela.
“If both parties try to overcome the accumulated distrust and turn over a new leaf, if America comes to realize that it needs to work with Vladimir Putin instead of thinking that it doesn’t like the Russia that we live in, then we could achieve results.” — Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the Russian Duma’s foreign affairs committee, calling for a new start to U.S.-Russia relations.
“Sandy was a climate change warning. Obama must now take the stage and fulfill the promise of hope the world needs.” — Kumi Naidoo, international executive director of Greenpeace.
The trust that the American people wanted to renew in you will allow the international community, Europe and Italy to benefit from your leadership without interruptions. ... With your confirmation at the White House, Italy knows it can count on a strong and united America.” — Italian Premier Mario Monti.
“I think Obama is a man eminently capable of building bridges between the Democrats and Republicans. And if you look at the challenges ahead for America — bringing down unemployment, getting the economy going again, strengthening the political and trade relationships with Europe and Asia — there are plenty of reasons to do so.” — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
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