Kogelo explodes with joy as Obama returns to father’s village
Nyang’oma Kogelo village in Siaya County has come to life as villagers await the arrival of their son, former US President Barack Obama who jets into the country on Sunday.
Unlike 31 years (1987) ago when Mr Obama visited his sleepy village quietly as a young man only aged 26 to a low reception; his arrival on Monday will be a special one.
During his visit to the country as President in 2015, Mr Obama recalled how his first visit was dissimilar.
“The first time I came to Kenya; things were a little different. When I arrived at (the Jomo) Kenyatta Airport, the airline lost my bags. That doesn’t happen on Air Force One,” he said referring to the official US presidential jet
“They always have my luggage on Air Force One. Auma (his sister) picked me up in an old Volkswagen Beetle, and I think the entire stay I was here, it broke down four or five times,” Mr Obama told his audience at Kasarani in 2015.
“We’d be on the highway; we would have to call the jua kali (roadside mechanic) — he’d bring us tools. We’d be sitting there, waiting. And I slept on a couch in her apartment. Instead of eating at fancy banquets, we were drinking tea and eating ugali and sukuma wiki.”
“There wasn’t luxury,” he added.
As his private jet touches down at JKIA on Sunday and his arrival at his native home in K’ogelo on Monday, it will be worlds apart from his 1987 call as a common community worker and as Illinois senator in 2006.
The global leader, will be accompanied by a huge delegation, dozens of aides and he will be accorded round the-clock Secret Service protection.
In Nairobi, he will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, according to a communique from Katie Hill, the Communications Director at his office.
“On Monday, he will travel to Alego for the inauguration of the Sauti Kuu Foundation’s Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre, where he will deliver brief opening remarks,” she says.
But even as Kogelo villagers rub their hands in anticipation of his arrival, they are unlikely to rub shoulders with the man they know as their son, but who now commands respect across the globe.
Organisers have cited space constraints as the aim for restriction of the public’s access to the event. “Due to space constraints, the public’s access to the event will be restricted, and the event will be open to a limited number of media,” read a statement from the organisers.
Mr Obama will only deliver brief opening remarks at the site of the Resource Centre to mark its opening before departing to South Africa.
In Kisumu, giant screens will be mounted at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground for the public to follow live streaming of Mr Obama’s visit.
In 2006 when Mr Obama visited Kenya as a senator, the public gathered at Senator Obama Primary School, formerly Nyang’oma K’Ogelo, where he gave his address before moving for a private meeting with his extended family. Then, Mr Odinga and other leaders accompanied him to the school.
His Monday visit, however, will be full of variances as he now commands a special stature in the society that comes with stringent measures.
Community representatives, professionals, clergy and elders met in Kogelo Friday in what their representative Nicholas Rajula disclosed was meant to brainstorm how they will welcome Mr Obama.
“We were discussing how to welcome him. We have endorsed the Resource Centre project and also discussed about a community memorandum that we would want to present to him (Obama) on Monday,” Mr Rajula told the Saturday Nation.
“We want to warm the village in an African way. This can only be done when there is a crowd. For that reason, we would wish to make a passionate appeal to the organisers to allow our beloved son to address the public briefly, not necessarily at the venue of the launch, which we understand is too small to accommodate everybody.”
Mr Rajula, who in 2009 led a delegation of Kogelo community to the US for Mr Obama’s first inauguration as President, said one of their requests to Mr Obama is to support the establishment of Barack Obama University in K’ogelo. “The community has already provided 24 acres of land for the construction of the university. This is on top of an additional 100 acres for the establishment of a research centre by the Centre for Disease Control,” he said.
He said Mama Sarah Obama’s Safeguard Orphans and widows Organisation has also been incorporated in the programme.
Mr Rajula also said in their memorandum, they have requested for the change of names of Senator Barack Obama secondary and primary schools to President Barack Obama.