The Obama Wave through My eyes

Posted February 10, 2009 from Kenya

The ways of God are mysterious. It’s only eleven months ago that Kenyans were up in arms protesting over what they termed as “stolen elections”. Lives were lost, property that was as a result of years of hard work destroyed and friendships and relationships broken. Today, however, these same people are dancing to a different tune, forgetting the past injustices to take pride in what is collectively Kenyan. As I walk out of the house, I notice a change of atmosphere and the mood is what is unique to weekends and public holidays; shops that are normally open as early as 6 am today show no signs of activity. The usual army of people marching to work is reduced to a mere handful. As I look into the faces of my fellow Kenyans, I can’t help but notice the smiles that stretch from ear to ear and soon find myself joining in the joy. There is a sense of pride in the atmosphere and a certain unity of thought. It is like we can read each other’s thoughts and we are all screaming OBAMA! History has been made and the pride in Kenyan people cannot be gainsaid. Not only has this young, slim guy with a funny name been elected the first African American president (this is a good place to applaud), he has his roots in our very own patriarchal country (ululate). I cannot help but notice that all the radios in the few open businesses are churning out his victory speech. This could not have come at a better time. The mood is celebratory all over and the matatus are almost ferrying people for free, the sun is at its brightest, completing this Kodak moment. Elsewhere businessmen are making a killing out of selling products with Obama’s portrait as the media goes into frenzy printing out special editions of newspapers. I can smell a public holiday from miles away as I commute to work. As I sit in the rickety matatu, I grapple with this reality that has refused to settle in. I imagine the joy that African Americans are caught up in as I struggle with tears. It has been a long two centuries of slavery and racial segregation and futile attempts at the top position. Martin Luther must be turning in his grave, I say to myself. The man of the day is lucky to at least know his roots, or is he? I arrive in the office and the mood is celebratory; the proverbial suit has been set aside for T-shirts, caps, badges and handbags that are an obvious indication of their allegiance to ‘ their son.’ We are at the office in the flesh but no work is going on. Obama is sprawled on televisions, newspapers, radios and computer. (I just noticed that the name Obama is recognized by my computer unlike mine, Omondi that gets suggestions like almond.) I wonder how Mr. Obama feels when he sees his face everywhere he turns. I really do not envy him because he may not only be the president of the 52 American states judging from the naivete of Kenyans. Worse still, he has to clean up the pile of garbage left by the outgoing president. Back in Kogelo, mama Sara is stealing the limelight as journalists from all over the globe camp in her compound which is suddenly too small, watching her every move. She has risen to celebrity status in the wink of an eye, surrounded by relatives and neighbors. Today she has many ‘relatives’ as young men and women struggle to trace their lineage as close as possible to her, making the president elect their uncle. They study the dictionary just in case they get their minute of fame on T.V to unleash phrases like ‘ … the paraphernalia of his political campaign.’ (What!) Our own Mwai Kibaki cannot hold his joy and decides- as I had predicted- that the Kenyan people need… no, deserve a public holiday. This is while the American people go to work as usual and at this point it all sounds absurd but it is an offer that, outrageous as it is, Kenyans welcome. The government spokesman who some days back was shredding Obama because of his obviously true analysis of the corruption situation in Kenya is now showering him with praises. I also do not envy his position that causes him to churn out incessant verbal diarrhea just to get a fat paycheck at the end of the month that finances the nightmare that is cobra squad. (Tsk) Days come and go and the media are still clamoring to give the latest on his steps towards the White House. I am so close to being disgusted seeing how Kenyans suck up for the sake of popularity. Obama, cute as he is, is no longer news but the media are like a dog with a bone, a broken record! They still have reporters camping in the U.S in the name of covering the events. I once overheard that these corespondents just go into pubs and clubs to listen in on the gossip and replicate it making CNN the only believable media. While they ogle over him, a lot of things are going down and I wouldn’t be surprised if we had a rerun of the Goldenberg saga. The crooks who stole 13 billion that was intended for HIV/Aids programs are tip toeing out of sight as they cover their tracks; the ever controversial debate on the Waki “envelope” has been shelved as the media is busy printing out Obama posters and calendars. I am hoping that all this madness will end only to resume on January 20th 2009 which will be my most memorable birthday. I am thinking of declaring it a public holiday… who am I kidding!

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  • Laura Moore
    Feb 10, 2009
    Feb 10, 2009

    Thank you for giving us your account of the Obama election. I'm passing it along. It's so good to connect with other women around the world and to read about what they are thinking.