K’Ogelo Nyangoma, the rural home of US President Barack Obama’s relatives in Siaya County, is an island of progress in a sea of want.
Before its famous son became senator in 2004 and president four years later, the seven-kilometre road from Siaya Town to the village was a rough, dilapidated affair. Today, it is tarmacked up to the homestead.
The home itself has a perimeter fence and a gate. Security is provided by a police post which is manned 24 hours a day. It attracts scores of visitors from around the world.
Mama Sarah’s house, newly refurbished at a cost of Sh2 million, is now connected to the main electricity grid and there is a large water tank.
The graves of the president’s father, Barack Obama Sr, and his grandfather, Onyango Hussein Obama, have been refurbished at a cost of Sh1 million by the Siaya County government.
Although the first sitting US president to visit Kenya will not have time to go to the village, Mama Sarah was flown to Nairobi to meet him.
Not so for the relatives in K’Ogelo Kanyadhiang’, some 150 kilometres away. Here, they feel abandoned and isolated.
The home is nearly two kilometres off the Homa Bay-Kendu Bay road. Most of the houses are semi-permanent, it is not fenced and power and piped water are alien things here.
All the attention and developments, including schools, roads and power, have been concentrated in K’Ogelo Nyangoma, they say.
Their claim is that although the US president’s family roots are more entrenched in Kendu Bay, he has been hijacked by those in Siaya.
Obama’s great grandfather, Obama Opiyo, migrated from Siaya to Homa Bay, where he stayed for many years and where he was buried.
Opiyo was the father of Ndalo Okungu, Zakayo Obilo, Salmon Oguta, Joshua Ogembo, Patrick Ojwang, Jotham Ndalo Obama, Blasto Adhiambo and Onyango Hussein Obama, the grandfather of the US president.
Onyango Hussein Obama left Kanyandhiang’ and returned to Siaya in protest after being branded a jadak (foreigner) when he sought a leadership position in the area.
However, he only left with Mama Sarah, Obama’s step-grandmother, leaving behind all his other brothers. Obama’s real grandmother had left him.
Now some members of the family in Homa Bay County accuse Mama Sarah of hijacking and personalising their powerful son.
Mama Penina Nyangweso Obama, wife of Blasto Adhiambo Obama, claims that she has only learnt of the visit of their son through radio announcements.
“I always hear the name of both our grandson, the home in K’Ogelo Nyangoma and my co-wife being mentioned, yet no mention is made of us,” said Mama Penina.
Mama Penina recalls the last visit to K’Ogelo Kanyadhiang’ by a young Barack Obama and his then girlfriend, Michelle, who would later become his wife.
The couple slept on a traditional mat in her house.
Alfred Obambo Oguta, another relative of the US president in Kanyadhiang’, too expresses disappointment that the focus was only on K’Ogelo Nyangoma.
However, Mr Elijah Kobilo Obama, another Kanyadhiang’ relative, disagrees, saying it was unfair to insinuate that the US president had abandoned his relatives in Homa Bay County.
He said the developments in K’Ogelo Nyangoma, including the refurbishing of the graves of the US president’s father and grandfather, had been done by the Siaya County government.
“It was the county government and not our son, Barack Obama Jr, who had refurbished Mama’s new house,” he added.
Mr Kobilo said the Obama family must learn to be self-reliant rather than relying on their famous son.
The Department of Culture in Homa Bay County, he added, could also emulate their Siaya counterparts by improving the Obama family museum in Kanyadhiang’.
And Saidi Obama, a spokesman of the K’Ogelo Nyangoma family, defended Mama Sarah and instead accused the Kanyadhiang’ group of politicising the visit.