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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 7, 2008

Obama's grandmother says perseverance matters most

By Katy Pownall
Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Sarah Hussein Obama, grandmother of U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, held a photograph of her and her grandson, as she spoke to the media Tuesday in her house in the village of Kogelo, near the shores of Kenya's Lake Victoria. She said her grandson is determined to become president and will fight hard for his party's nomination.

BEN CURTIS | Associated Press

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KOGELO, Kenya Sen. Barack Obama's Kenyan grandmother listened to primary election results under the shade of a mango tree, none too bothered to learn that the U.S. presidential contender was neck-and-neck with his chief rival.

"He will still try very hard; he is determined to become president," Sarah Hussein Obama said yesterday, a day after the Super Tuesday primaries in the United States.

"He can still try next time if he doesn't make it this time," she said with a smile.

Tuesday's primaries did not clinch the Democratic nomination for either Obama or his main rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton Obama won 13 states while Clinton took eight, plus American Samoa.

Sarah Hussein Obama, who can usually be found working in her home or fields despite her 86 years, hosted excited friends and neighbors on plastic chairs in this sleepy village, where children trek a red dirt road to school and villagers push bikes laden with maize and sugar cane to the market.

"He came here with his wife, Michelle, and the children to show them where is home," Obama's grandmother said proudly.

In a secluded corner of the homestead is the tiled grave of her son Barack Obama's father.

The senior Obama won a scholarship to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, where he met and married the candidate's American mother. The two separated and Obama's father returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982.

The Democratic candidate was mostly raised by his mother and her parents and did not know his father well. But his presidential bid has sparked excitement in Kenya. His most recent visit in 2006 attracted thousands.

Barack Obama has visited his Kenyan relatives three times in Kogelo, and his grandmother has gone to the U.S. twice. She says they are close, although they have to speak through an interpreter.

Her village has been untouched by postelection violence that has shaken Kenya. More than 1,000 people have been killed and 300,000 displaced nationwide since a Dec. 27 vote the opposition says President Mwai Kibaki stole. The dispute is political, but the violence has pitted other tribes, such as the Obamas' Luo, against Kibaki's Kikuyu, who have long dominated politics and the economy.

Obama has appealed for peace on Kenyan radio and contacted relatives earlier to check on them.

For now, however, the Obamas are concentrating on news from America, not Kenya.

"It's a very important day for us," said the candidate's uncle, Said Obama. "People are coming from all over, and many people are calling me to find out what's happening."