Obama Family shows pride from Kenya home


Photo by AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Sarah Hussein Obama, grandmother of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama sits in front of her home in the village of Nyagoma-Kogelo, western Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Barack Obama phoned Kenya’s opposition leader as diplomatic attempts to end Kenya’s political crisis intensified Tuesday.

At the end of a dusty, dirt road lined with mango and mimosa trees, Barack Obama’s Kenyan relatives sat outside on plastic chairs surrounded by chickens and drying corn kernels, listening to radio reports from New Hampshire.

Kogelo, the western Kenyan home village of Barack Obama’s father, has been spared the political and ethnic violence that has erupted elsewhere in this country following a disputed presidential election. But it was just 90 minutes’ drive from a town where torched, ransacked and looted buildings bear testimony to the clashes, and the turmoil in Kenya, as well as his nephew’s success in the U.S., was on Said Obama’s mind.

Said Obama said his nephew ”has proved to be a beacon of hope here and shown that even in difficult circumstances you can make it to the highest height of achievement with just determination and hard work.”

Obama’s father, also named Barack Obama, won a scholarship to a university in Hawaii, where he met and married Obama’s American mother. The two separated and Obama’s father returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982.

If Barack Obama were in Kenya today, he would ”work with the leadership to bring them to a round table and find a solution to the problems that have been ravaging the country,” his uncle said.

Barack Obama’s forays into diplomacy have touched on Kenya, most recently on Monday when he spoke with Raila Odinga for about five minutes from New Hampshire, asking the opposition leader to meet directly with President Mwai Kibaki, said the U.S. politician’s spokesman.

”He urged an end to violence and that Mr. Odinga sit down, without preconditions, with President Kibaki to resolve this issue peacefully,” said the spokesman, Bill Burton.

On his last visit to Kenya, in August, Obama made a speech that was televised live in which he touched on themes not normally debated openly in Kenya, criticizing the high-level corruption and the tribal politics that have dominated the country since its 1963 independence from Britain. Both issues have played a role in the postelection violence.

”Very many people sat up and listened, but the government didn’t like it,” Said Obama said of his nephew’s speech. ”It touched a nerve they didn’t want touched. The corruption is endemic here and tribalism cannot escape your eyes –you just have to look at the government ministries.”

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