SECTIONS

By Kepher Otieno

Taxi operators, hotels and restaurant owners are laughing all the way to the bank as Obamamania continues to grip Nyanza.

With only a few hours to the elections, taxi operators are recording booming business as journalists and tourists flock the rural home of US Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama’s step grandmother, Sarah Obama.

The Illinois Senator is on the brink of becoming the first black American president.

Most taxis were hired and hotels fully booked by weekend, as the region became a hive of activity and excitement.

Yesterday, Nyanza Chairman of Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers James Nyaundi said most hotels were fully booked until mid next month.

Local and international journalists, during a Press briefing in Kogelo village, Siaya, on Monday. Reporters and visitors are flocking to the village, where Obama’s grandmother lives.

[PHOTO: TITUS MUNALA/STANDARD]

"The number of bookings made both locally and online are many and we are now forced to defer clients to the outlying areas," he said.

Phillip Gwada, a taxi operator in Kisumu, said nearly all taxis were hired for at least four days.

The taxis charge Sh4,000 a day, while hotel rates ranged from Sh600 to Sh6,500.

Matatus plying Kisumu-Siaya route also made booming business after they doubled fares.

They charged between Sh300 and Sh450 to Kogelo village in Siaya, where Sarah Obama lives.

Obama’s late father Barack Hussein Obama Sr hailed from there.

Several visitors have pitched tent in the hitherto sleepy village awaiting the US voters’ final verdict.

Most are foreign and local journalists who are monitoring the outcome of the polls.

Yesterday, a group of wazungus was selling badges, watches and caps with Obama’s likeness at the entrance of local supermarkets in Kisumu.

The women claimed they were using the Obama excitement to raise money for a charity organisation by selling the items.

Kenyans, giddy at the prospect of an Obama presidency, wait for the announcement with bated breath.

Obama last visited Kogelo in 2006.

Police have beefed up security within and around Sarah’s home to ensure there are no incidences of crime, as visitors continue to stream in.