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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 January 2008, 16:17 GMT
Could US elect a Luo before Kenya?
Barack Obama greets his grandmother, Sarah Hussein Obama, at his father's house in western Kenya in August 2006
Barack Obama visited Luo family members in Kenya last year
It is said there is a bitter joke among Kenya's Luo community that the United States of America will elect a member of their tribe as president before the East African country does.

The ironic gag is a reference to US Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama, whose father was a Kenyan Luo.

The Illinois Senator, who last year visited his family's ancestral village in Kenya's western Nyanza province, has decried the ethnic tribal violence that has convulsed the country in the past week.

Mr Obama took time out from campaigning in the crucial Iowa caucuses to urge Kenyans to end the bloodshed.

Politically cheated?

"Now is the time for this terrible violence to end," Mr Obama told US government-funded Voice of America radio.

Raila Odinga pictured earlier this week
Luo opposition leader Raila Odinga believes he won last week's poll

"To all of Kenya's people, I ask you to renew Kenya's democratic tradition, and to seek your dreams in peace."

Kenya's 36m people are split into more than 40 different ethnic groups, each with its own strong identity.

Kenya has had three leaders since independence from Britain in 1963.

Mwai Kibaki, whose re-election as president last week is hotly disputed amid claims of vote rigging, is a Kikuyu.

The tribe, from the agriculturally-rich central highlands, makes up more than a fifth of Kenya's population and wields strong economic power.

Founding president Jomo Kenyatta was also a Kikuyu, while his successor, Daniel arap Moi, is from the Kalenjin tribe (12% of the population).

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki (C) votes last week
Mr Odinga also claims Mr Kibaki cheated him in 2002

Kenya's current opposition leader, former political prisoner Raila Odinga, is from the Luo community (13%).

Many Luos feel they have been politically cheated by Kikuyus in the past.

The assassination of rising Luo politician Tom Mboya in 1969 was blamed by his kinsmen on the Kenyatta regime.

Mr Odinga claims Mr Kibaki welched on a deal to create a prime minister's position in exchange for Luo votes in the 2002 presidential election.

But many Kikuyu believe they shed most blood in the Mau Mau rebellion that helped win independence and that they therefore deserve the lion's share of victory's spoils.

Allegations by Luo supporters of Mr Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement that last week's poll was stolen from them has only fuelled a sense of grievance.

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