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Obamas Kenyan uncle trapped by violence, fears for job
Kenya Barack Obama 5556183
Sarah Hussein Obama, grandmother of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama sits in front of her home in the village of Nyagoma-Kogelo, western Kenya, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008. Barack Obama phoned Kenya's opposition leader as diplomatic attempts to end Kenya's political crisis intensified Tuesday. - photo by Associated Press
    KISUMU, Kenya — U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama’s uncle has been a prisoner in his own home, trapped by postelection violence that has left more than 600 Kenyans dead.
    Said Obama lives in this western city, near a slum that has been a flashpoint for violence. Police shot and killed four people here Wednesday while trying to prevent thousands of rowdy protesters from entering the city center.
    ‘‘Yesterday I was confined to my house, it was just too dangerous to go out,’’ Said Obama said. ‘‘I could hear bullets around the place so I stayed put and listened to the radio for news.’’
    Most of Barack Obama’s other relatives in Kenya, including his 86-year-old grandmother, Sarah, live in a rural area nearby that has been unaffected by the violence.
    On Thursday, Said Obama went with The Associated Press on a drive around the city nestled on the banks of Lake Victoria. Kisumu is a stronghold of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who accuses President Mwai Kibaki of stealing Dec. 27 elections with a vote tally that local and international observers say was rigged. Odinga called three days of protests across the country beginning Wednesday.
    ‘‘These days you have to be scared because you don’t know what will happen next,’’ Said Obama said as the car drove past a roadblock of burning tires set up by protesters.
    The streets were largely deserted Thursday, and small groups of would-be protesters dispersed rapidly at a wave of a police baton. Police with guns and batons patrolled the streets.
    After election results were announced last month, enraged protesters torched buildings and looted shops. Police opened fire in Ksumu; hospital records show 44 people were shot and killed.
    ‘‘In a situation where police are shooting indiscriminately, no one is safe on the street. I’ve never seen such a thing in Kenya since I was born,’’ said 41-year-old Said Obama.
    He said he could not believe his eyes when he returned to Kisumu last week from his home village — a 90-minute drive away — to resume work as a technician in a chemical plant.
    ‘‘It really hurts me to see so much destruction,’’ he said, glancing at the charred remains of one of the largest supermarkets.
    Said Obama said he supports peaceful protests. The area around Kisumu has been marginalized economically by the government for many years, he said, and people have the right to demand change — especially after an election tally he believes was deeply flawed.
    But Said Obama did not take to the streets himself. Instead, he stocked up with rice, beans and meat. With shops closed, roads blocked and prices rising, he feared shortages in coming days.
    ‘‘I might yet go hungry,’’ he said.
    The factory where he works has been brought to a standstill. He thinks there will be layoffs, and he might lose his job.
    Said Obama welcomed attempts his nephew has made to try to get Kibaki and Odinga to talk.
    Barack Obama called Odinga and said he urged all leaders to tell their supporters to stand down and resolve the situation peacefully. Barack Obama’s advisers say he also has discussed the crisis with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
    But Said Obama said his nephew need do nothing just for his family.
    ‘‘I don’t want to pull the Obama card,’’ he said. ‘‘We have a problem in Kenya and I want to live it like any other Kenyan, not as Obama’s relative.’’
    ‘‘We hear that Barack has intervened and talked to the leadership here, but that’s on behalf of all Kenyans, not on the behalf of his family members, and that’s how it should be.’’

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