Barack Obama’s inauguration speech may have struck a sombre tone, but in his ancestral village of Kogelo, in southwest Kenya, nothing was going to dampen the party spirit of the locals. Under a large banner that declared the new president to be “Our son. Our hope.” Villagers, journalists and a smattering of curious tourists sat in the school yard watching the events thousands of miles away in Washington DC unfold on a big screen provided by a Kenyan newspaper. A passing reference in Obama’s speech to “the small village where my father was born” brought forth cheers and tears. On this special day, the residents of Kogelo had dubbed themselves the 51st state, and the pace of transformation in the village since Obama’s election victory in November must have led some to wonder if they had indeed been adopted by the world’s wealthiest nation. In just a couple of months, Kogelo has been electrified for the first time and seen the dusty dirt track connecting it to a nearby highway upgraded to tarmac. One local newspaper reported that up to 200 foreign tourists had been visiting the village every day since Obama’s victory, and although this number seems difficult to credit given the small numbers present on inauguration day, the village can certainly expect to play host to a steady stream of foreign visitors for years to come. The Kogelo cultural festival, as the four-day inauguration festival was rather stiffly named, will, the organizer announced, become an annual event. Hopes were high among the villagers that what will surely come to be known as Obamafest will take on international significance. This year wasn’t a bad start. Traditional performances, most of them in the local Luo language, and dances proved popular diversions, and one villager, decked out in the stars and stripes, was cleaning up by charging people for a ride on his camel, which adopted a pleasingkly disdainful attitude to the festivities around it. School classrooms were turned into makeshift kitchens, serving up ugali and meat from the many animals that had been donated to the village by wealthy locals and slaughtered that morning. NGOs had set up stalls, the Kenyan Tourism Board had staked out a pitch and a culture minister from central government was pressing the flesh. A sensible inauguration-day editorial in Kenya’s Daily Nation urged Kenyans to relinquish any fantasies they might hold about the new US president devoting special attention to the problems of his father’s homeland. And few locals I spoke to seemed to believe that the new president would have an immediate impact on their lives. One young man, the captain of a village football team beaten in the Kogelo festival tournament by Obama FC, the home team, neatly turned out in the Chelsea stripes told me that his main hope was that Obama would continue the sensible and generous Africa policy of George w Bush’s administration. A wordly wise pharmaceutical sales rep from the nearby city of Kisumu suggested that Obama may finally provide the inspiration for Kenya’s notoriously corrupt political class to rule in the interests of all their countrymen. But in the main, what was striking about the Kenyan response to Obama’s inauguration was how closely it seemed to mirror that of the west. There was no doubting the joy on the faces of the teenage boys bouncing to the sounds of Kenyan ragga at Kisumu’s official inauguration celebration in Kenyatta Park, or the more well -heeled crowd dancing and drinking the night away at the nearby Social Club. But these were partisan celebrations for the local boy who’s done good, not the expressions of misplaced optimism. Most people I spoke to or saw interviewed said merely that they were inspired by Obama’s victory to believe that anything is possible, that they hoped that the world would be able to unite behind this inspirational figure to address problems collectively thoughts echoed by the Americans lining Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the inauguration day parade I saw interviewed on CNN in my Kisumu hotel room later that night.