It’s no secret that Kenyans are excited about the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.
Kenya’s president, Mwai Kibaki, declared Nov. 6 a national holiday as Kenyans celebrated the victory of Barack Obama, described by Kibaki as a “son of Kenya.” Obama’s father was raised in Kogelo, a small village in the East African nation.
The day after the historic election, more than half of the babies born in the Kisumu, Kenya, hospital were named either Barack or Michelle in honor of the U.S. president-elect and his wife, according to news reports.
Church members across Africa also sent e-mails of congratulations to their American brethren.
“As Kenyans, we are more than happy and proud of our American brothers and sisters for standing together in solidarity to write a new history in your beautiful country — and in the world at large,” said John Ochieng, evangelist for the Likoni church in Mombasa, Kenya.
The praise from African Christians focused less on the election’s winner and more on how Americans conducted the election — peacefully.
Less than a year ago, Kenyans went to the polls in their own presidential election. Kenya’s electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga, but international observers said the election was flawed.
Riots and widespread violence followed, claiming more than 1,500 lives, including at least 20 church members. More than 250,000 Kenyans fled their homes. The country’s economy collapsed. Food prices skyrocketed.
After more than a month of instability, the United Nations brokered a peace-sharing deal between Kibaki and Odinga, who now serves as Kenya’s prime minister.
Results of the U.S. election were broadcast around the world, said Duncan Opiyo, minister for the Soweto church in Kenya. As Kenyans watched a man with ties to their country win the presidency, they also witnessed a peaceful transition of power, the minister said.
“God bless America,” said Joseph Bett, another Kenyan minister and the guardian of three children orphaned by AIDS. “Congratulations to all of you for your prevailing love and peace during that decisive moment of voting.”
Isaac Daye, a native of Liberia who serves as an evangelist in the West African nation of Gambia, praised American voters for providing the rest of the world with an example of democracy without violence — regardless of whether they voted for Obama or his opponent, John McCain.
“McCain and the Republican party did not lose the election — they won the peace,” Daye said. “Your example of tolerance and political maturity is unmatchable. Bravo to the people of America.”
As I continued to read, I remembered how blessed we are to have (comparitively) peaceful elections. Not all nations are so blessed.
I repent of my cynicism.