KENYA: Villagers Spent Over Eight Hours Waiting To See And Greet Their Son In Vain

Residents of Kogelo, Siaya County, wait outside Barack Obama Senior Center where former US President Barack Obama was addressing an event on July 16, 2018. PHOTO | TONNY OMONDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


--Residents of Kogelo Village were on Monday disappointed that their celebrated son, Barack Obama, left without addressing them directly.

The former US President's visit to his father's birthplace ended in an anti-climax after he evaded the public.

This was despite the joy and excitement that the villagers had expressed for the past two months when they first heard the news of his visit.

The villagers had gathered outside Sauti Kuu Resource Centre for more than eight hours hoping to be addressed by Mr Obama after the official ceremony.


Unlike in 2006 when Mr Obama spoke to the public at Senator Obama Primary School, the situation was different yesterday.

"We are disappointed that after spending more than nine hours here, it was in vain. We never came to beg, but just to see our son and greet him," Ms Mary Awuor said.

"This was not a visit to the village because Obama just addressed dignitaries at the expense of villagers. I came from Kisumu, and I wished to see him and just hear a word from him. This is too bad," Mr Norman Odongo said.

Despite nursery, primary and secondary school learners from Senator Obama schools lining up outside to have a glimpse of the former President, their efforts were in vain.


Mr Obama, who was driven from Kisumu to Kogelo — 60 kilometres away by road — arrived in Kogelo unnoticed without the usual sirens by security vehicles escorting VIPs.

He left the Sauti Kuu venue through the rear gate and avoided residents, who had camped outside for hours.

On his arrival in Kogelo, Mr Obama first visited his grandmother Sarah Obama and relatives at home before heading to Sauti Kuu for its launch.

A police helicopter hovered in the air to enforce security by both Kenya Police and the US Secret Service Unit.

Earlier, there was drama and excitement after some villagers attempted to storm Sauti Kuu area, where Mr Obama was attending the official launch of the centre.

Their joy was however short-lived after GSU officers blocked them from entering the venue.


Ng'iya-Ndori road that passes through Nyang'oma Kogelo trading centre was closed and only accredited guests and media were allowed through the way.

Police mounted roadblocks and check points along the way to block unauthorised visitors.

Traders in Kogelo tried to cash in on the tour by selling their merchandise such as Kenya and US flags as well as Mr Obama's portraits amid tight security.

Ms Benta Juma, who was selling the flags, said the tight security affected her job.

"We are trying but I have to admit it's so hard because of the tight security. They don't allow us to move freely," she said.


Mr Odongo caused a brief stir outside the resource centre when he demanded access, lamenting that he had come all the way from Awasi in Kisumu to see Mr Obama.

"I have come all the way from Awasi and Obama must speak to us," he said.

Siaya and Kisumu governors also depicted contrasting scenarios to security when the former US President arrived.

While Prof Anyang Nyong'o (Kisumu) bowed to demands and accepted to be searched at the gate of Sauti Kuu Resource Centre, Mr Cornel Rasanga of Siaya refused, threatening to return home if they insisted on what he saw as public humiliation.

Prof Nyong'o agreed to security checks together with his deputy, Mr Mathews Owili.

But Mr Rasanga argued with security details, saying he was the governor of Siaya and hence the host, who should be exempted from the search.


Unable to handle the impasse, junior security guards from KK Security passed the buck to a Secret Service agent stationed at the gate, who intervened and after consultation with local security authorities granted him access.

Mr Obama's half-brother Malik Obama gave the ceremony a wide berth.

There were reports that some of his close relatives were barred from accessing Mama Sarah's home.

Malik broke ranks with his family during the 2016 US elections and supported President Donald Trump. His relationship with other siblings and Mama Sarah has not been rosy.


The former US President presided over the official opening of global standard sport facilities in Kogelo.

The facilities – Sauti Kuu Sports, a resource and vocational training centre – will host world class athletes.

The centre comprises an international standard-size football pitch sponsored by the German Ministry for Development Cooperation, a basketball court sponsored by the Giants of Africa Foundation and a volleyball and netball court.

Other facilities include a library, an IT laboratory and a vocational centre.

The space will serve as a safe space for children, youth and their families to meet and interact regularly while participating in different sports and learning activities.

Sauti Kuu founder Auma Obama says through educational, sports and learning activities, the centre will pave the way for a better future for Sauti Kuu children, youth and their families.