Obama’s ancestral homeland in Kenya had lots of hope, but got little change

Obama’s ancestral homeland in Kenya had lots of hope, but got little change
Kogelo, Kenya (credit: Kevin Sieff/The Washington Post)

Barack Obama Okoth was tugging at his Mickey Mouse sweatshirt, trying to remember everything he could about the man he was named after.

“He lives in America, and he’s a king,” the 7-year-old said after a long pause. It’s easy to understand why the young Barack would think so. He attends Senator Barack Obama Primary School, a stop on the Barack Obama Safari Tour, near a hotel that offers a Barack Obama Suite.

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Next month, Obama will make his first trip to Kenya as president. If he returns to Kogelo, he’ll find a village lifted by its association with the world’s most powerful man but still wrestling with disease and poverty. He’ll find people proud enough to name their boys Barack Obama but disappointed that he waited until the seventh year of his presidency to return to his father’s homeland.

“When he comes, we will present our problems,” said Edwin Okoth, Barack Obama Okoth’s father, his hands on his son’s shoulders.

It’s not only people in Kogelo who remain unsatisfied. Given the president’s familial connection to East Africa, many expected Obama to transform America’s relationship with the region. That hasn’t happened.

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