[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 August 2006, 19:42 GMT 20:42 UK
Ecstatic Kenyan welcome for US senator
By Muliro Telewa
BBC News, Nyangoma Kogalo

Senator Obama hugs his tearful grandmother
Sarah Hussein Obama gave her grandson a tearful welcome

US Senator Barack Obama was received in his father's rural village of Nyangoma Kogalo, in western Kenya near the shores of Lake Victoria, like a long-lost king who has returned home to claim his crown.

As the Illinois Democratic senator entered his family's compound - surrounded by both Kenyan and US security - his grandmother Sarah Hussein Obama could not hold back tears of joy as she hugged him.

It was Mr Obama's first visit to Nyangoma Kogalo in Nyanza province, where his father was born, since his 2004 election to the US Senate.

Local women, dressed in their colourful clothes, sang and ululated as he used his left hand to wave at them and held onto his grandmother tightly with his right.

My grandson does not understand Luo or Kiswahili and I cannot speak English, so I need a translator to talk to him
Mr Obama's grandmother
The security teams struggled to keep uninvited members of the press out of the compound, as Senator Obama, followed closely by his wife Michelle, two daughters and a niece, walked towards his uncle's house to greet the family elders.

But an old lady in her 70s weaved her way through the guards, grabbed hold of the politician's hand and only released him after he had danced with her to the cheers and applause of several hundred people who had made their way into the compound.

Thousands of other onlookers were kept out of what the Obamas had said was a private function.

T-shirts

Before Mr Obama's arrival on Saturday afternoon, his grandmother admitted to me that she usually had trouble communicating with him.

Dancers in Nyangoma Kogalo
Hundreds of people crowded into the family compound to greet the senator

"My grandson does not understand Luo or Kiswahili and I cannot speak English, so I need a translator to talk to him," she said.

But as he moved around the compound, he kept nodding to his grandmother saying, "Ero kamano" (meaning in Luo: "thank you very much").

The Luo tribe of his late father, who are the majority in Nyanza province, were celebrating in style.

They had printed T-shirts, mainly in bright yellow, and one would have been forgiven for thinking that Senator Obama was conducting a presidential campaign in Kenya.

It is people of Nyangoma Kogalo who assisted my father to achieve his academic goals
Barack Obama

In fact, although most of T-shirts were emblazoned with the slogan: "Welcome home Senator Obama", there were a few that read: "Obama for President."

I asked those wearing them if they wanted Mr Obama, who is the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother, to be president of Kenya or the United States.

"It does not matter. If he becomes the president of Kenya, fine! If on the other hand he wins the American presidency, it is all right too," one of the young men quipped.

Beer cheer

Earlier, addressing a public rally attended by thousands of people, Senator Obama stated that he was a US citizen and senator to the American people.

US Illinois Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle get tested for HIV
Senator Obama's HIV test results will be sent to the US embassy

However, he said that he wanted to assist some young people from his father's homeland to attain their goals.

"It is people of Nyangoma Kogalo who assisted my father to achieve his academic goals," he explained.

During his busy one-day tour of Nyanza province, Mr Obama publicly went into a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Kiosk, accompanied by his wife, for a HIV test.

After taking their blood, the medical officers promised to send the results their HIV status through to the US embassy in Nairobi.

Nyanza has one of the highest HIV infections rates in Kenya, but most people are unwilling to go to the test centres to find out their status.

Mr Obama also visited two schools next to his grandmother's compound, both of which have changed their names in his honour to Senator Barack Obama Nyangoma Primary School and Senator Barack Obama Nyangoma Secondary.

And although Mr Obama's Kenyan tour has come to an end, the makers of a local beer called Senator are still reaping in the rewards of all the free publicity.

When people go into a bar here, they simply ask for an "Obama", and the waiter knows what to bring.




SEE ALSO
Profile: Barack Obama
03 Nov 04 |  Americas

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific