US President Barack Obama is touring the African continent but not the country where his Muslim father Hussein Obama was born, writes Mohammed Kahiye in Nairobi.
This is Obama’s second visit to Africa as President while skipping Kenya in his itinerary. On his last visit he was in South Africa, Ghana and Egypt. Kogelo village in west Kenya is where the young Obama used to visit his grandmother, Sarah Obama while still a student in the US. The village was little known until 4 November 2008 when its son Barack Obama was elected the president of the most powerful country in world.
I remember this day clearly, I was in high school and the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, declared that day a public holiday due to Obama’s historical victory and his connection to Kenya. The government of Kenya started to develop Kogelo infrastructure due to the large influx of visitors to Sarah Obama’s home. Electricity, roads and even police stations which never existed before were set up to honour Obama’s victory, the village went from darkness to light.
The residents of Kogelo village conducted a “mock election” during Obama’s re-election on November 2012 and celebrated his victory. Kenyan citizens from all walks of life were proud to be associated with Obama, especially those from western Kenya who always joke about being related to Barack Obama.
Kenyan reaction 2013
Kenya has never received an official visit from a sitting US president. The only president to have visited the country was Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. And even that was a private visit infamously remembered for the wanton killing of wildlife he carried out.
On 2 June, Obama was expected to visit Kenya’s southern neighbour the Republic of Tanzania just 670 kilometers, 12 hours drive or approximately 45 minutes flight from the capital Nairobi. The move by the White House is suspected to be a reaction to the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, both of whom are facing crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
There were mixed reactions among Kenyans concerning Obama’s decision not to visit Kenya – some saw it as betrayal of a “runaway son” while others viewed it as a blessing.
Spokesman for Kenya’s government, Muthui Kariuki said: “It’s for the Americans to decide where Obama goes. There are 54 nations in the African continent and he’s only visiting three, so I don’t see the big deal about not going to Kenya.”
A Muslim youth activist, Hamid Abdalla believes that it is very expensive to host Obama or any sitting American president in Kenya. He said: “We should think about the financial and technological consequences that will paralyze us for those few hours Obama will be in Kenya. All the systems will be jammed, for example no mobile money transaction, how many businesses will be affected?”
An American citizen who spoke to 5Pillarz on the condition of anonymity said: “Kenyans should not be excited about Obama’s visit. The whole city will be shut down and only his absence will save the city
“Kenyans should protest against the US’s discriminative policy and crimes against humanity if Obama does come.”