By FR JOACHIM OMOLO OUKO, AJ
JANUARY 22, 2009
“Can anything good come out of Kogelo?” This was the type of question Nathanael asked when he was told that the King has been born out of Nazareth. In Jesus’ day Nazareth was a small and insignificant village, overshadowed by the more important cities of Sepphoris and Tiberias nearby in Galilee.
When Barrack Obama visited Kenya in 2006 the Government spokesman, Mr Alfred Mutua dismissed him as a young man who could not teach Kenya how to manage its affairs and who had been caught up in the then opposition leader Raila Odinga’s “ethnic politics.”
He dismissed him Obama after he delivered a lecture at the University of Nairobi where he said that Kenya would struggle to step out of poverty and find its true economic potential unless it abandoned its entrenched corruption and tribalism.
“If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and to promote their common welfare – all else is lost,” said Obama adding “and this is why the struggle against corruption is one of the great struggles of our time.”
After being named as Kenyan ambassador to the United States in September 2006, Rateng Ogego also condemned Obama over his remarks at the same University even before presenting his credentials to President George Bush. Ogego has not apologized to Obama or corresponded with him since then. Raphael Tuju, the former Foreign Affairs minister, also harshly criticized Obama at the time.
Two years later New York Times (February 24, 2008- Obama’s Kenyan roots) carried a story that prompted Nicholas Kristof, the author of the story to wonder what type of the president Obama could be when his grand mother is a barefoot old woman in a ripped dress sitting on a log in front of her tin-roof (pictured above) bungalow in this remote village in Kogelo, western Kenya.
According to the story Mama Sarah, as she is known around here, lives without electricity or running water. She is illiterate and doesn’t know when she was born and cannot communicate with Mr. Obama, who calls her his grandmother, because she speaks only her Luo language and a little Swahili. Obama’s Luo is also pretty much limited to “misawa,” meaning “how are you?”
The father, the story had it, also named Barack Hussein Obama, was as much of a pathbreaker as his son. He went from herding goats in Kogelo to studying in Hawaii and at Harvard, even if his career as an economist was frustrated in part by ethnic rivalries.
During his inauguration speech however, Obama did not only send a tern warning to leaders who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent should know that they are on the wrong side of history; but also promised he we will extend a hand if they are willing to unclench their fist.
To the people of poor nations he pledged to work alongside them to make their farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like theirs that enjoy relative plenty, he said we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. The world has changed, and we must change with it.
Contrary to New York Times story, in his speech, Obama referred to the village of his ancestry, Kogelo, saying his declared change would be felt from the largest cities to the â€˜smallest village where my father was born’.
Although Barack Hussein Obama Sr was born in the sun-baked terrains of Kanyadhiang’ village, Rachuonyo District in 1936. His father, Onyango Obama, who later moved to settle in Alego-Kogelo in Siaya District, was a colonial cook, because of his popularity, an organisation speaking for the Luo Community in Uganda has claimed President Barack Obama’s grandfather was born in Uganda.
Although the organisation, Luo Community [Ugandan Chapter], is however an unregistered entity whose real membership remains unknown, according to the community, “by 1926 when Obama’s grandfather Onyango Obama was born in Nyanza province [it] was still part of the Uganda protectorate whose boundary extended up to the Rift Valley in Nakuru” the statement said, adding that the boundaries were only altered in 1926.
The fact however is that, Onyango and his son Obama Sr were buried in Kogelo, where his stepmother Sarah Obama and other family members live, Onyango spent his early life in Karachuonyo. Onyango was recruited to fight in the Second World War. When he returned, he had converted to Islam and acquired the name Hussein. His first wife â€” Akumu Nyanjoga â€” the mother to Obama Sr died, and he married Sarah Ogwel â€” the now popular granny who brought up Obama Sr. Obama Sr was the second born in a family of four.
It was in Karachuonyo where Obama Sr married his first wife, Kezia in 1956 when they met at a party on December 25 whe she was only 16 while Obama was about 20 years.
His 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” written before he entered politics, does not only provide a revealing, introspective account of his efforts to trace his family’s tangled roots and his attempts to come to terms with his absent father, who left home when he was still a toddler, but also demonstrates how President Obama has a bigger heart for his Kogelo home.
People for Peace in Africa (PPA)
P O Box 14877