Where the Kenyan heritage of Barack Obama is an asset
Politico - 07/21/2015
Who is this American boy we are hearing about whose father is from Siaya?” asked our elderly Kenyan host, Walter Gor in April of 2004, as we sat sipping tea in a small tin-roofed shack near the rocky shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya.
As American researchers conducting research on Kenyan colonial history, we stared blankly back. Sensing our confusion, Gor elaborated, “Yes, you know the one from Chicago who is contesting a seat in parliament?” Faithful students of Kenyan politics, we were nonetheless stumped by his queries. We thought to ourselves, “An American from Chicago running for the Kenyan parliament? But it is not even an election year in Kenya!”
A few months later we realized that, drinking tea just 25 miles from Barack Obama’s ancestral Kenyan home, we had missed a prime opportunity to engage with the beginnings of what grew into Kenya’s full-fledged “Obamamania.” Although Obama was merely a candidate for a Senate seat from Illinois in 2004, his political fame rose faster in Kenya than it did in the United States. The president’s paternal ties to the country spawned Obama-inspired beer brands, tee-shirts and kanga wraps. Waves of Kenyan newborns were anointed “Michelle,” “Barack,” “Sasha” and “Malia.”