Kenyans Still Proud of Obama, But With an Eye on Their Own Elections
In Barack Obama's first election, the eyes of Kenya, where his father was born, were watching closely. But this year, as the novelty has worn off and Kenyans face their own upcoming election, attention has shifted - especially as people focus on getting young people interested in voting.
Barack Obama’s 2008 run for the White House generated a lot of enthusiasm in Kenya.
Many there claimed the candidate as one of their own because Barack Obama's father was Kenyan. Nairobi singer Makadem scored a hit with this song titled “Obama Be Thy Name.”
Four years later, Makadem says Kenyans are still on Obama’s side. But Kenyans have their own upcoming elections to think about, and Makadem admits that’s what he’s concentrating on.
Kenya was supposed to have a presidential election this year, but it’s been pushed back to next March.
And as politicians actively campaign, some Kenyans fear a repeat of the widespread ethnic violence that followed their last presidential election.
More than 1,000 people were killed in clashes after the election’s outcome was disputed. This time, Makadem hopes Kenya will avoid that despite some heated rhetoric in the campaign.
“I’m always a positive person and I’m quite optimistic that it will end up well, but the way it looks, it looks bad,” he said. “At the end of the day things always seem to work out. So that’s what gives me the optimism that we’ll have a new president and Kenya will come out on top.”
One campaign issue close to Makadem’s heart is getting young people to vote.
He says there’s a lot of work to be done on that front.
“There is something in Kenya about the youth not wanting to vote, especially the young girls, the under 25s,” he said. “They don’t want to vote. And I always tell them ‘No, whether it is not directly coming to you it does affect your life. Because those guys sit in Parliament and they decide your future. So, you better be involved.”
To make his point, Makadem is planning to write a song directed at young potential voters.
He says the lyrics will declare that one of them could be president of Kenya some day.
In the meantime, Makadem already has a track that praises the young women of Nairobi.
It’s called “Nya Nairobi.”
Public Radio International