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Election rekindles memory of Kenyan village's love affair with President Obama

Kenyan village is Obama central

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    Kenyan village is Obama central

Kenyan village is Obama central 02:26

Story highlights

  • The village of Kogelo was the birthplace of President Obama's father
  • In 2008 the village celebrated "Obama mania"
  • Barack Obama's win put Kogelo on the map
  • Now, with a close election looming, many are nervous

Four years ago this village was the center of "Obama mania."

The celebration of 2008 "was exceptional, it is something not any of us would have imagined to have happened because we were at the brink of history being made," said village resident Malik Obama, half-brother of the president.

In 2008, Malik Obama peered into a tiny TV with a flickering CNN signal for an all-night vigil watching results come in. After a rain-soaked night that stranded more than a few reporters who had come to the village, Malik Obama emerged bleary-eyed but dancing. A crowd of supporters chanted his name.

Kogelo is the birthplace of Barack Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr. Then-Sen. Barack Obama visited in 2006 and paid special homage to his grandmother, Sarah Obama (now universally known as Mama Sarah). It's not just Sarah and Malik, there is a whole wing of the Obama clan here: cousins, aunts and half-cousins.

If 2006 was the start of the love affair, in 2008 it went full-blown.

Everywhere there were Obama T-shirts, DVDs and cakes (a black forest cake with an edible picture of the president-to-be and Mama Sarah was a favorite).

Things have certainly cooled down since then.

To many Africans (and Americans, if polls are correct), Barack Obama's presidential campaign of "hope" and "change" hit a wall of reality when he came into office.

Africans, in particular, saw great hope in the new American president with African roots. But after just one brief swing through Ghana in four years at the White House, many feel let down by Africa's "favorite son."

The administration contends that Africa is a priority, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been a regular fixture in Africa.

But to Africans, and especially to Kenyans, it is not the same.

"Under the circumstances with what he has had to deal with we understand," said Malik Obama, "and we hope that circumstances will change. We hope he has the opportunity to come here and say hello."

Even without a visit from President Obama, Kogelo is still trying to make good use of the connection.

Where there was once just a dirt track running through town, now a paved road is nearing completion. Electricity is connected to many houses. Water projects have increased.

Simply put, President Obama's win put Kogelo on the map. Locals here say that charities flooded into Kogelo to get a bit of the "Obama cache."

With a tight race looming in 2012, many here are nervous.

"I don¹t know the other person who is contesting," said Pastor Joseph Omundi of the Christian Life church in Kogelo, "but we know Barack Obama is the son of this land."

Omundi, a fiery preacher who delivers sermons with a translator in a staccato double act, said his congregation has been praying for "peace, the economy, and Barack Obama."

Everyone a CNN crew spoke to in Kogelo is for Obama: the fruit vendors; the commuters streaming by in matatu, or minibus, vehicles; and even the opinionated boda boda, or bicycle and motorcycle, drivers. Many just refer to Mitt Romney as "the other guy."

While Kogelo has changed, with a new recreation center and lodge for foreign tourists, it is still just a rural village some 260 miles (418 kilometers) west of Nairobi, the capital. The flood of foreign visitors predicted by the government hasn't materialized, and the much-touted road isn't quite finished.

But Malik Obama stays positive.

"Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States, but Kogelo is the capital of the world, because everybody comes to visit," he said.

      Election 2012

    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage with first lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden after his victory speech on election night at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      A black man is returning to the White House. Four years ago, it was a first, the breaking of a racial barrier. Tuesday night, it was history redux. And more.
    • CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 06:  U.S. President Barack Obama stands on stage after his victory speech at McCormick Place November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. Obama won reelection against Republican candidate, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

      The 2012 presidential election shattered spending records, further polarized a divided country and launched a thousand hashtags.
    • Even though voters indicated to pollsters that their financial situation is the same or worse than it was four years ago, they put their trust in the president.
    • US President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters on stage on election night November 6, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. President Barack Obama swept to re-election Tuesday, forging history again by transcending a slow economic recovery and the high unemployment which haunted his first term to beat Republican Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

      The president faces a long and familiar set of challenges after riding a wave of support from moderates, women and minorities to victory.
    • Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama and the Senate from the Democrats.