Ilhan Omar, Malcolm Kenyatta: The Kenyan connections in US midterm elections


Ilhan Omar, Malcolm Kenyatta: The Kenyan connections in US midterm elections
Ilhan Omar and Malcolm Kenyatta. PHOTOS | AGENCIES

In Summary

  • Malcolm Kenyatta was elected the Pennsylvania State Representative of the 181st District in Philadelphia while Ilhan Omar was elected to the U.S Congress in Minnesota.
  • Malcolm's grandfather changed his name from Donald Brooks Jackson to Muhammad Kenyatta in the early 1970s to honour Elijah Muhammad, leader of Islam, and Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya.
  • Ilhan Omar is a former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war and spent four years at Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Voters from the United States of America on Tuesday took to the ballot to participate in the country’s midterm elections.

What many may not know is that two people who won in the US midterm elections have ties – albeit minor – to this great country called Kenya.

Malcolm Kenyatta was elected the Pennsylvania State Representative of the 181st District in Philadelphia while Ilhan Omar was elected to the U.S Congress in Minnesota.

Ms. Omar and her fellow Democrat Rashida Tlaib made history by becoming the first two Muslim women elected to serve in the U.S Congress.

But just what connection, exactly, do Malcolm Kenyatta and Ilhan Omar have to Kenya?

For Mr. Kenyatta, the story goes all the way back to his grandfather Muhammad Kenyatta, born Donald Brooks Jackson.

The newly-elected Pennsylvania State Representative’s grandfather changed his name from Donald Brooks Jackson to Muhammad Kenyatta in the early 1970s to honour his perceived heroes; Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, and Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya.

Muhammad was a revered American professor and civil rights leader during his heydays. He died in 1988 due to ill health.

Ilhan Omar, on the other hand, is a former refugee who fled Somalia’s civil war and spent four years at Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya.

Born on October 4, 1981, Ms. Omar was the the youngest of seven siblings. Her mother died when the trailblazer was a young girl leaving her under the care of her father – a teacher trainer –  and her grandfather; the then director of Somalia’s National Marine Transport.

At the start of the Somali civil war in 1991, Ms. Omar and her family fled to Dadaab Refugee Camp after which they emigrated to the United States in 1995 and settled in Virginia before moving to Minneapolis.

Kenyans online have begun expressing excitement at the wins of Ms. Omar and Mr. Kenyatta, despite their minor connection to the country.

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Story By Ian Omondi
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