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Kenyan relatives overjoyed, holiday declared

world Updated: Nov 06, 2008 00:35 IST

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Kenyans in Barack Obama’s ancestral homeland sang and danced with joy on Wednesday.

A tropical downpour overnight failed to dampen spirits as hundreds gathered in a field at Obama’s late father’s village Kogelo to watch the results relayed to a big screen.

As a pink dawn lit the sky, they clapped and cheered when key swing states fell to the youthful Democratic candidate they see as east Africa’s favourite adopted son. Then came the news they had been waiting for: Obama had won.

“We are going to the White House! We are going to the White House!” relatives sang at the top of their voices as they danced around the family’s modest homestead, pausing only to hug each other and hoist small children into the air.

Since 2004, when Obama was running for the Senate in Illinois, the Harvard-trained lawyer and civil rights activist has enjoyed rock star status in the east African nation.

Born in Hawaii to a white mother from Kansas and a Kenyan father, Obama is idolised by many the way the Irish saw former US President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s: as one of their own who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. Babies have been named after him, drinkers knock back “Senator” beers in his honour, pop stars sing his praises and “Obama: The Musical” opened in the capital Nairobi on Sunday.

“We didn’t sleep all night,” Biosa Obama, Obama’s 39-year-old sister-in-law told Reuters, dancing on the spot in Kogelo. “I don’t know what to say. This is just too amazing.”

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki declared Thursday a national holiday to let Kenyans celebrate Obama’s success.