Obama recalls his first visit to Kenya


Barack Obama in Nairobi in 1987. Photo/COURTESY
Barack Obama in Nairobi in 1987. Photo/COURTESY

In Summary

  • Speaking at the event, Obama who expressed joy at being back in the country reminisced about the first time he visited Kenya and his father’s homeland in the late 1980s.
  • After staying in Nairobi for a while Obama and his sister Auma made their way to Alego, the homeland of his father Barack Obama Snr.

Former U.S President Barack Obama was on Monday in Siaya County to inaugurate the Sauti Kuu (Powerful Voices) Foundation Sports, Resource and Vocational Training Centre founded by his sister Dr. Auma Obama.

Speaking at the event, Obama who expressed joy at being back in the country reminisced about the first time he visited Kenya and his father’s homeland in the late 1980s.

“I was 27 years-old at the time working as a community organizer when I got the opportunity to know Auma. I fell in love with her and even though I hadn’t grown up with her I was determined to better understand the life of my father and that of his people,” said Obama.

“I flew to Nairobi and Auma hosted me in her flat where we talked all night as I familiarized myself with the city and its surroundings.”

After staying in Nairobi for a while, Obama and his sister Auma made their way to Alego, the homeland of his father Barack Obama Snr.

“We took a slow train which travelled overnight and when we finally got to Kisumu we took a bus. In the bus, there were some chickens on my lap and some sweet potatoes digging into my side,” said Obama.

“When we arrived near our destination we had to get into a matatu which was more crowded than the bus. It dropped us off and we walked up a dirt path to Mama Sarah’s house although it wasn’t quite as fancy as it is now.”

The long journey to his father’s homeland had left the future President tired and famished.

“I was hungry but I had to catch a chicken to eat so we scurried around the yard until we caught a chicken and fortunately Mama Sarah (Obama’s grandmother) was better with a knife than I was because I think I got a little squirmish,” said Obama

“I visited my father’s grave and it gave me a sense of satisfaction that no five star hotels could ever provide because it connected you to your past and the stories of those who came before you. It grounded you and gave you a sense of place that then fortified you for the future.”

The ex-US president also showered praise on his sister Dr. Auma Obama for her achievement in founding the Sauti Kuu Foundation.

“When I think about what Auma has accomplished in building this centre I think about that first night, that first night going to sleep without running water or indoor plumbing and the fact that she (Auma) knew where she came from and understood how her story connected to the past and to the young people in this community. It was out of that spirit that this facility was built,” said Obama.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what my sister has accomplished and it makes all of us extraordinarily proud.”

Also Read: Obama speaks on corruption in Kenya

Obama, who arrived in Kenya on Sunday, July 15 is expected to leave for South Africa where he is scheduled to stay until Thursday July 19.

During his period in South Africa, he will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa, and also deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture under the theme; Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World.

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Story By Mbuthia Bashir
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