It was hard not to be moved by the outpouring of enthusiasm – joy, even – seen in many parts of the world at the election of Barack Obama as the U.S.’ 44th president on Tuesday. Brighter Green is not a political organization, but we are a global one. And we have a number of NGO partners, including in Kenya, the home country of president-elect Obama’s father. So I thought I’d share two responses from Kenyan colleagues to the momentous event. The first is from Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, who, in an article in the UK Guardian, said that, the morning after the election, she was off to plant a tree in Uhuru or “Freedom” Park in Nairobi to commemorate the occasion. It will grow alongside another tree that is growing in Nairobi — one planted by then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama and Wangari a couple of years back.
That was before Obama’s presidential campaign – and before the 2007 disputed Kenyan elections that led to fury and violence, from which Kenya is still recovering, although by all evidence, the recovery, and even some measures of reconciliation and ground-truthing, is going fairly well. Wangari calls on now president-elect Obama to put a priority on environmental protection and dealing with the realities, and ravages, of climate change when he takes up residence in the White House. She looks back — to the civil rights era in the U.S. when she was a student (and was denied a soda in Indiana, a state Obama just won, due to the color of her skin) — and forward:
This is one of the most inspiring moments of my life. Americans have elected a person of extraordinary character and ability, who also happens to be black. It is a moment of greatness for all humanity.
Another reaction, short and sweet, comes from Daniel Salau of the Simba Maasai Outreach Organization (SIMOO), Brighter Green’s partner in two projects: a girls’ education, rights training and leadership initiative, to launch in early 2009, and one focused on developing green energy in indigenous communities that are off the grid. Here’s what he says:
Congratulations for the new president! Today we woke up (some of us didn’t sleep) to the great news of Obama’s victory. It has taken much effort and prayers to achieve this, but it has come to pass. You can imagine the celebration here in Kenya!!
Many of us in the U.S. didn’t get much sleep on election night. Apparently, Kenyans got even less; most were glued to radios or TVs, listening to or watching the vote tallies through the night and into the Equatorial dawn.