Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kenya rejoices

Yes, I know you can’t go for 5 minutes today without hearing about election results, but here in Kenya, there’s no talk of electoral votes, senate seats, or partisan politics...there's only celebration. As much as the political commentators are touting the “historical” implications for the US, I’m pretty convinced that this morning was just as momentous for Kenyans as it was for Americans, if not more so. No matter what side of the political fence you’re on, you can’t deny that Barack Obama’s candidacy has instilled pride, hope, and a sense of unity in Kenyans.

Audrey and I gave our hyenas the morning off and went to watch the election returns in the Serena Lodge staff quarters, which quickly filled with rowdy Kenyans. When CNN projected Obama as the winner, a deafening roar broke out and free Cokes (it was just 7am, but that didn’t matter) were passed around. As we watched Obama’s acceptance speech, the room alternated between captivated silence and boisterous cheers.

For the last several months, Obamania has indeed gripped this country. Locally-brewed “Senator” beer has been dubbed “Obama” beer. In the roadside markets, kangas (traditional fabrics with bright patterns and Swahili sayings) now bear portraits of Obama and the phrase Yes We Can. As a foreigner, the first question I get is “What country are you from?” When I reveal that I’m American, the follow-up is inevitably, “So you must know Obama!”

But to Kenyans, Obama is more than just a local guy making good. After the political instability that ravaged the country earlier this year, this morning’s results reminded Kenyans that democracy is possible, and that elections can accurately reflect the will of the people. Our Serena camp attendant, Philomen, said (this is a translation from Swahili, so forgive me if I misquote you, Phil!) “Here, our election was stolen from us. In America, the right man won.”

I won’t pontificate here on whether the right man won or not. But, I will say that, after the horribly divisive events here in January, it’s been amazing to watch Kenyans unite behind a common cause. Even the bickering government has banded together and unanimously declared Thursday a public holiday to commemorate their countryman's success.

So no matter what your political views are, tomorrow you should kick back, relax, and celebrate Kenya’s newest holiday…we’ll have an extra “Obama” beer on your behalf.


Riz said...

Hahahaaaaa... nice post!!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You really conveyed what Kenya is like in the midst of what is happening here in America. I wish it felt like that walking around in MN, but it seemed humdrum today without fanfare when what I really wanted to yell was 'Yeah!' in the street. Andy, have a beer for me, on second thought you've probably had enough, love your sis.

Anonymous said...

I'm very happy too for the USA and for Kenya on the outcome of this election.

Good to see that The Mara Conservancy website has posted the link to your blog. I look forward to hearing about your research.

Dana-Phoenix, Arizona USA

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science