Of all the good things that happened to Kogelo, a once sleepy village hugging the Yala River in Alego Sub County, Siaya County, it was the emergence in 2008 of then 47-year-old Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the US.
The Harvard educated lawyer had three years earlier puffed the ego of his father’s traditionally proud Luo people and excited Kogelo folks into having a school christened after him following his election as Senator for Illinois in January, 2005.
But that was viewed by the Kenyan leadership as a small feat as reflected in the words of then Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua who derogatively referred to him as a Junior US Senator when he audaciously criticised Kenya at a lecture to the University of Nairobi students during a visit in 2006, words he was to greatly rue in later years.
Obama’s presidency was particularly phenomenal in his Kogelo home where no infrastructure to talk home about previously existed.
The former US President and his sister Auma Obama had to endure a dusty, back breaking ride, hurtling on a rutty road between Ndori and Nyang’oma in a matatu where passengers sat on hard couches facing each. His mission? To see the grave of his father who died in a road accident in 1982 and to meet relatives, among them his now famous grandmother, Sarah.
All that was to change with Obama’s presidency and Kogelo is today served by a smooth road connecting Ndori on the Kisumu Bondo Road with Ngiya on the Kisumu/Siaya road. A place where monotony of dark nights were broken only by fire flies and glow worms is today flooded by electricity. Think the White House is a preserve of Washington DC? Just come to Kogelo!
Security that for long was a nightmare in the area tremendously improved with the increase of police officers, some permanently stationed at the gate to Mama Sarah’s home.
As a nation, Kenyans reaped big by identity to this great man whose oratory alone baffled the world. It reached a crescendo when Obama visited his father’s land as serving President of the US, only the second one to do so.
Obama promised many goodies during his three day sojourn, among which a change in the US visa regime for Kenyans.
Now Kenyans can take solace from Obama’s undertaking to bring more goodies to his fatherland after leaving office. The much awaited visit could be the beginning of that regime.