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Barack Obama homecoming tour sparks excitement across Kenya

by Xinhua writer Wang Xiaopeng NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The idyllic Kogelo village in western Kenya where former U.S. President Barack Obama traces his ancestry is not your usual African rural hamlet thanks to the sprucing-up it has undergone in recent times.

Both local and foreign visitors are mesmerized by the sight of modern resorts, conference centers and state-of-the-art sporting facilities that dot this village whose famous son put it on the global map.

Kogelo village is in a carnival mood as it awaits Obama’s arrival on July 16 to launch a sports complex, resource and vocational centers.

The past week witnessed a flurry of activities in Kogelo as enthusiastic relatives and neighbors braced for the arrival of Obama.

Obama’s two-term presidency witnessed a drastic transformation of his late father’s birthplace through construction of modern roads, schools and power connection.

Likewise, savvy investors have capitalized on Kogelo’s big name to put up world-class resorts and hotels for local and foreign visitors.

The Kogelo Lodges and Spa, located on the main road leading to Obama’s father’s birthplace, captures the attention of visitors due to its unique architecture.

Staffers at the modern resort said all 50 rooms were booked ahead of Obama’s visit.

The frenzy accompanying Obama’s visit to his ancestral village was visible at a community cultural center.

Onyango Ndalo, a middle-aged artist, told Xinhua he had painted more than 10 portraits in honor of a man he revered for becoming the leader of the world’s largest economy.

"So far, I have managed to create about 10 paintings depicting the life and times of Barack Obama and his families here in Kogelo. We are always proud of his visits here and will accord him a reception befitting an icon," said Ndalo.

Kogelo was a sleepy village about 31 years ago when the young Barack Obama embarked on a journey to trace his family roots amid great nostalgia.

In 2006, Obama returned to Kogelo as Illinois Senator and gave a moving address in front of enthusiastic villagers, relatives and local leaders.

When he was sworn in as president of the United States in 2009, Kogelo residents had great expectations that their son would pay them a visit.

Their wish did not materialize during Obama’s 2015 visit to Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

This time around, however, the entire village was in celebratory mood ahead of the visit of their famous son.

In addition to meeting President Uhuru Kenyatta and other national leaders in Nairobi, Obama is scheduled to proceed to Kogelo, accompanied by dozens of celebrities and corporate titans during his two-day Kenyan tour.

The former U.S. leader will later fly to South Africa where he will deliver a lecture.

Local media reported that Obama’s launch of the sports complex, resource and vocational centers in Kogelo on Monday will be streamed live on giant screens mounted at a stadium in the lakeside city of Kisumu.

Residents of Kogelo are expecting that Obama’s home-coming tour would usher new fortunes.

At Senator Obama Kogelo Secondary School, built on land donated by Obama’s grandparents, principal Henry Odongo said the former U.S. leader’s home-coming tour will be an epoch moment that will be relished by his teaching staff and students.

Odongo said they are all excited by Obama’s visit to Kogelo, expressing the hope that the school will benefit from new assistance to upgrade key facilities like classrooms, laboratory and library.

Kenyan officials said that Obama’s visit to his ancestral village will elevate its status as a prime tourist destination.

Betty Radier, CEO of Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), said Obama’s tour will help showcase scenic attractions and rich cultural heritage around Lake Victoria basin and the larger western Kenya region to the outside world.



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