Kenyans Upset As President Obama Failed To Visit His Hometown In Kenya

When President Barack Obama first announced his visit to Kenya, the people of Siaya thought for sure he would visit Kogelo to see his father’s grave. Siaya is the home county of Obama’s family and the Luo ethnic group, one of the largest ethnic groups in Kenya.

His step-grandmother, Mama Sarah, who he calls “Granny,” told the press she would cook chicken, fish and ugali—maize porridge—for his visit. A local radio station announced he had plans to be in town for three whole hours.

People painted signboards, local entrepreneurs made T-shirts, towns were cleaned, public buildings were painted, public parks seeded. “We wanted it to look nice and green for President Obama,” said Elkanah Odembo, who served as Kenya’s ambassador to the United States from 2010-2013 and is also from Siaya and the Luo tribe.

The celebrations across Siaya were to be called “Obama Night.” They included an investment forum “showcasing investment opportunities in the county,” said Odembo. Rams, goats and bulls were assembled.

But then, shortly before his trip, the president announced he would not be visiting the area and a couple dozen close family members, including Mama Sarah, were called to Nairobi to see him there instead. Hysteria ensued. Residents called into local radio shows wailing in disbelief. Columnists chided him. Local witch doctors tossed shells and animal bones on the ground, claiming it wasn’t true and the president would indeed come.

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