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KISUMU, Kenya -- Believers across Kenya are praying for Barack Obama -- literally. They're making sacrificial offerings to help ensure his victory in a nation where the Illinois senator is considered a native son.
Minibuses festooned with Obama's image ply Kenya's roads, and his portrait is a fast-seller in marketplaces. But one prominent preacher is taking his fervor further, saying his church is engaged in "spiritual warfare" to ensure Obama is victorious.
Bishop Washington Ogonyo Ngede met Obama during the senator's high-profile 2006 visit to his father's village, Kogelo. Ngede, a Pentecostal leader, said a prayer in the village before Obama spoke and "laid hands upon" the Hawaii-born senator, who he believes is anointed by God for electoral victory.
"I prayed for him. I said, 'God bless this young boy, and make him to become president of the United States of America.' I prayed openly, with a lot of force. And I felt the anointing when I was praying," said Ngede.
One tenet of Ngede's faith is "spiritual warfare," which he says combats "evil spirits" from carrying out their intentions. Ngede believes there are "evil plots" afoot in the spiritual realm to prevent Obama from taking office, and in recent months his Power of Jesus Around the World Church has engaged in the flamboyant prayers typical of Pentecostalism to counteract them.
Ngede's church has 1,400 branches throughout East Africa and claims a membership of 250,000 people. Because of Ngede's stature in the province and his membership in the Karuoth clan of the Luo tribe, to which the Kenyan Obamas belong, he was included in a welcoming committee for the senator when he visited Kenya two years ago.
"Now we are seeing the result of my prayer," Ngede told FOXNews.com. Ngede knew Barack Obama Sr., the senator's father and a Harvard-educated economist, and drew parallels between father and son.
"When you met the old Barack, you could leave him to talk. When he's talking, he's just like a gramophone. People loved to receive him. And he had a big voice, just like the voice of Senator Barack," said Ngede. Obama Sr. died in a car accident in 1982. The presidential candidate's grandmother, 86-year-old Sarah Obama, still lives in Kogelo village.
Many Kenyans, especially in the western heartland of the 3-million-strong Luo tribe, regard Obama as one of their own. One Luo-language monthly currently on newsstands in Kisumu, Kenya's third-largest city, even published a banner headline reading "Obama Muomo Amerka" -- Obama Invades America.
Awash with radio, television, and newspapers, Kenyan city-dwellers do not want for news about the U.S. presidential race. Kenyan television correspondents report live daily from the United States, and even Sarah Palin has become a household name.
Framed photographs of Obama are sold in the street next to portraits of Kenya's president and prime minister, which customarily are hung in offices. Peddlers also hawk Obama T-shirts, buttons and keychains.
Songs praising Obama are hits, heard nationwide in nightclubs, drinking dens and people's homes. And drivers of the colorful matatu, the minibuses that swarm Kenya's roads, have covered their rigs with Obama paraphernalia.
Besides Ndege, other religious figures in the area have pulled for an Obama victory as well.
At Kit Mikayi, a sacrificial rock shrine 20 miles from Kisumu, about a dozen people have visited on the senator's behalf, according to Jennifer Okot, an elderly villager who lives near the shrine.
Customarily, those seeking large blessings sacrifice a goat by swinging it by its legs so that its head and neck are bludgeoned against a large rock in a naturally occurring enclosure between two massive boulders that serves as the shrine's sanctuary. The goat's demise incurs the blessings of the rock shrine's god, said Caroline Odhiambo, a 24-year-old who tends to the shrine.
The charismatic faith healer Fr. John Pesa I says he has offered prayers for an Obama victory over the past two months in his cathedral of the Holy Ghost Coptic Church on the outskirts of Kisumu.
Pesa, a former Roman Catholic whose followers address him with the honorific "Your Holiness," claims 3.5 million members, and his church is disproportionately strong among the Luo people.
Oscar Nyangwesoh, who runs an orphanage in a nearby village, estimates that only the Anglican and Catholic churches are larger than Pesa's church in Kenya's Nyanza Province, where Kisumu and Kogelo are located.
Obama himself detailed his Kenyan ancestry in his memoir Dreams From My Father, which is about the young Obama's search for roots. Obama's father bore children by four women in the United States and Kenya. He left the candidate's mother, Ann Dunham, to return to Kenya.
Members of the Obama family, including the candidate's grandmother, half-sister Auma, uncle Said and his father's first wife Kezia, have gathered in Kogelo village in advance of the election. Swamped by journalists, the modest family homestead has been cordoned off by the Kenyan police, and the family is refusing comment until the election is over.
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