Kenyans have two Obamas to follow

By Steve Bloomfield

Among the family portraits in Sarah Hussein Obama's modest house in a remote corner of Kenya are election posters of her two grandsons.

The first poster shows the familiar smiling face of United States presidential hopeful Barack.

Her second politico grandchild Nicholas is not quite so well known, but that could change, at least in Kenya, after elections where he is bidding for a seat in Parliament.

Nicholas Rajula, to give him his full name, has seen his popularity boosted by his famous familial connections. When Barack Obama visited Kenya last year, the country - and this western region of Nyanza in particular - was swept up in Obama-mania.

Babies were christened Obama, the primary school was named after him, even the local Senator beer was rebranded to celebrate the area's most famous son.

"It would be very cheap of me to drop the name 'Obama' into my campaign," Rajula insists, "but if they know I am a relative and want to associate me with the senator, I have no quarrel."

Many voters are already making the connection. A group of young men, gathered in the shade by the side of the road, nod in agreement when Charles Odhiambo, a 30-year-old bicycle taxi rider, explains why he is voting for the Obama connection.

"If he wins and maybe Barack also wins then they can co-ordinate together and bring a lot of development down here."

Election fever is whipping up in Kenya ahead of the December ballot.

Obama's father, also called Barack, was a goat herder in Nyangoma-Kogelo, the village where Sarah Hussein Obama still lives. He left after getting a scholarship at Harvard University.

"I think both the Senator and Rajula can win," said Sarah Hussein Obama. "They are playing different types of politics in terms of style but they are both stronger than their opponents."

Rajula was close to his cousin's side when the US senator came to the area last year, particularly when he visited the newly-renamed Barack Obama primary school - a school of which Rajula is patron - and donated books and materials for the teachers.

Rajula is one of 17 people competing for the nomination of the ODM party.

Margaret Adimabo Okatch, 34, sells chapattis, avocadoes and tomatoes from her roadside stall. Her analysis of Rajula's chances almost mirror the comments many US political-watchers are making of his cousin. "Rajula is still junior in politics. He needs more experience."

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