KOGELO, Kenya — In Barack Obama's ancestral home here, excited residents are preparing to go to the polls next month for what has become a tradition every four years since their favorite son became president: a mock election. But not everybody is supporting his choice for a successor.
“I will support Donald Trump because he is a humble and honest guy,” the president's half brother, Malik Obama, told USA TODAY. “He is a guy who can help people. It’s an opportunity for Americans to give Trump a chance to become president."
"I don’t like (Hillary) Clinton," Malik Obama added, ignoring his relative's strong support for the Democratic candidate. "She is dishonest and a liar. She keeps on lying about emails every time.”
The president is not close with his father's side of the family. His mother, Ann Dunham, a native of Kansas, divorced his father after three years of marriage. Besides Malik and a half sister, close relatives who still live here include Obama's stepgrandmother, Mama Sarah Obama, 95.
Malik Obama's dislike for Clinton is clearly a minority view in Kogelo. “I will definitely vote for Hillary Clinton,” said Willys Onyango, 28, who pushes items in a hand cart for a living. “Mrs. Clinton supported our son Obama for two terms. It’s time we also return the favor.”
The run-up to Kogelo’s mock election is a big tourist draw for a village that has prospered over the past eight years from Obama’s familial connections. The date of the big vote has yet to be scheduled. In the meantime, smaller gatherings hold practice elections nearly every day in the belief they will generate good luck for Obama’s Democrats as Americans go to the polls.
“Our election here is a sign of what to expect in the actual voting in the U.S.” Onyango said. “Since Mrs. Clinton will win here, we expect her to also win the presidential vote in the U.S.”
In Kogelo's two previous mock elections in 2008 and 2012, Obama, not surprisingly, won resoundingly against Republican candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney.
To win votes, pro-Clinton activists shout, dance and wave banners with pictures of Clinton and Obama.
“It’s obvious that we’ll support Mrs. Clinton, who stood with our son,” said Nicholas Rajula, a cousin of the president who owns a resort here. “I’m sure she will win.”
Malik Obama says he is unhappy with his half brother for not doing enough as president to help Kenyans and the rest of the African continent. “I love President Obama, because he is my brother,” he said. “But Obama is a hypocrite. He is not helping us at all. ... Obama has done nothing for this family for the last eight years. We have been waiting for his help in vain.”
Some locals agree with that sentiment, even though Obama has made four presidential trips to sub-Saharan Africa, including the first visit to Kenya by a sitting U.S. president last year. He didn't visit Kogelo during that trip, much to the village's disappointment, but he came here in 2006, when he was a senator.
“I can’t support Obama and the people he supports,” said Japhet Otieno, a truck driver. “Obama has forgotten us since he was elected president."
Even though Obama has not been back here in a decade, Kogelo has experienced a boom since he became president. It has gotten electricity, paved roads and other improvements, plus major facilities. The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation cares for widows and orphans who have lost spouses and parents to HIV/AIDS. The Barack H. Obama Foundation, founded by Malik Obama, develops sources of clean drinking water. There are also two schools named after the president.
Just about every household has a portrait of the president hanging on a wall or cupboard. And, as another reminder of the village's famous descendant, security guards stand outside the gate to Mama Sarah’s homestead 24 hours a day.
Onyango believes Kogelo stands to gain again if Clinton wins the presidency on Nov. 8.
“The village will continue to benefit if Clinton wins the election,” Onyango said. “She is the best friend of the president, and she will keep an eye on the village.”