Kenyan radio shows interrupted their programming Friday and bus conductors shouted the news from the windows: President Barack Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee stunned many with its decision to award Obama the prize so early in his presidency for his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms and defuse tensions through diplomacy.
But few in Kenya were critical: The East African nation has a special regard for Obama, the son of a Kenyan economist and an American anthropologist.
“When I heard it on the radio I said ‘Hallelujah!'” said 65-year-old James Andaro. “It’s God’s blessing, this win is for Africa.”
In the Kenyan city of Kisumu, the capital of the home province of Obama’s father, radio shows interrupted broadcasting to have live phone-ins so callers could congratulate Obama on his win. Traders in the market huddled around hand-held radios and touts yelled the news to each other from the windows of local minibuses known as matatus. Many are already decorated with Obama’s picture.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki issued a statement of congratulations to Obama.
“I have no doubt that this award will give new impetus to your efforts to bring about lasting peace in areas where war has ravaged communities over long periods of time,” Kibaki said. “I also encourage you to continue opening the avenues of dialogue in order to bring about a better understanding among the family of nations.”
Obama has not visited his Kenya since his inauguration amid concerns over poor governance. More than 1,000 people were killed in riots that followed Kibaki’s narrow re-election in 2007. Observers described the polls as deeply flawed.
“We need an Obama here in Africa,” grumbled Humphrey Oguto, a 27-year-old engineer. “He’s done a lot in just a little time … Our leaders have done nothing for years.”
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.