Kenyan Americans Vote in Historic Election

Posted, 7:49 p.m. — Kenyan Americans were among thousands of voters who went to the poll to decide the 44th President of the United States.

They braved the morning chill in New Jersey to ensure their votes counted, in boosting Senator Barack Obama’s chances of occupying White House.
To many of them, it was a culmination of a grueling campaign, under their association, Kenyan American Community Association, formed to champion the interests of Kenyans in America.

“It was a historic moment for me today to be part of the decision making panel that will determine who becomes the next President. We have been campaigning for Barack since he became the Democratic Party and today is the anticlimax,” said Shem Onditi, the founder of the association.

This year’s election has elicited massive interest among Kenyan Americans, who had in past shown less interest in U.S. politics. Kenyan Americans feel closest to Obama, who was born to a Kenyan father and an American mother. Obama’s links to Kenya is one of the major reasons why Kenyan Americans have shown interest in this year’s election.

Onditi, who has lived in America for 26 years, voted at 6:15am at PS 38 polling station in Jersey City, accompanied by his wife and son.

The businessman, expressed confidence Obama would win the Presidential race, citing opinion polls, which had showed Obama leading his closest challenger Senator John McCain.

Onditi described Obama’s rise to fame as a miracle.
“I had never thought in my wildest dream, a child bearing a Kenyan name, a Kenyan identity could ever come this far to be president of the most powerful country in the world.”

He said the Democratic Presidential nominee was the most suited candidate for White House, capable of building friendship with the rest of the world.

George Omburo, 47, also woke up in the wee hours of the morning to cast his ballot at PS 38, before going to work.

Omburo, a data analyst, voted for Obama and described him as a shinning star for minorities worldwide.

“As a man born in Kenya, it brings pride in me that one can be an immigrant and on the lowest end of the social ladder but still make it in life. You can rise to the highest office on land,” said Omburo.

He described Obama as god-sent, and the right person America needed to steer the super power out of the economic crisis.

The said Obama’s Kenya connection had improved the status of Kenya in the eyes of the international community.

“Everybody will know Kenya and where it is. This is important for tourism,” said Omburo.

Peter Masonge, a teacher in New Jersey, who voted at PS38 polling station, described the day as one of the most important days in his life.

“I have voted for a person I feel very close to and that does not happen frequently when one is in foreign land,” Masonge added.

He, said Obama’s presidency would open a new chapter on world relations, based on reconciliation rather than war.

Students Elijah Ogotu, 23, and Stefanie Nunda, 19, also heeded the “come out and vote” message and queued to cast their votes at daybreak. The two voted at Sacred Heart School, District 23.

Nunda said Obama’s presidency was special, as it had raised hope and enthusiasm among minorities in America.
“Thanks to Obama. I now have a lot of pride in me; Kenyan pride and American pride,” she added.

Ogotu said he felt closest to Obama, not only because he was black, but also because of his Kenyan roots.

“I am Kenyan and it will be historic to see a black man occupying the White House. I am proud to see one of us in there, it gives us hope,” he added.

Unlike the election in Kenya, which is always characterized by massive rigging, Ogotu said, the election would be free and fair and Obama declared the winner.

Bill Nyanongo, a businessman who also voted in Jersey City, said he had fulfilled his goal, which he made early this year of voting for Obama.

“I was worried something might wrong might happen today, before I fulfill my goal. I am now satisfied that I was able to meet it,” said Nyanongo.

The Kenyan American Community Association, Onditi said, had campaigned for Senator Obama and helped mobilize Kenyan-Americans living in New Jersey and other states to vote for the Illinois Senator.

“We have done groundwork campaign and raised funds. We have never been committed this way before! That is how serious it is,” the 51-year-old businessman.

– BY JEFF OTIENO

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