15 July 2018

Kenya: Quarrel With Chief Forced Obama Family to Move - Now Village Wants 'Son' to Visit

A village in Homa Bay County is demanding that former US President Barack Obama pays them a visit if only to trace his ancestral roots.

Although the tentative programme already released shows he will not, residents of the sleepy Kanyadhiang village in Karachuonyo, Homa Bay County - which lays claim to the former US President's ancestral roots - are asking him to spare time in his tight schedule and visit them.

When the "Sunday Nation" visited the village, Obama's relatives were hopeful that "their son" would find it in his heart to visit them.

Mzee Elly Yonga Adhiambo, 68, said they hoped the former US President would honour his promise to visit them. Mr Obama made the promise when he visited Kenya during his presidency.

"He hosted us in Nairobi during his last visit. He told us he could not visit us at our rural home then because he was a Head of State. He promised to do it when he comes back," said Mr Yonga.

Holding photos he took with Mr Obama and other family members when the former US President hosted the family in his last visit to Nairobi, Mr Yonga urged Mr Obama not to forget his roots.


Calls for Obama to visit the village have received the backing of Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti. "The Obama family first settled in Kanyadhiang village in Kendu Bay before moving to Alego K'ogelo in Siaya. He is a true son of Homa Bay County," he said.

Mr Awiti further said the county identifies with Mr Obama because the late Tom Mboya - who facilitated the airlifting of Obama Senior to study in the US - came from Rusinga Island.

"The late Tom Mboya, the man who helped Barack Obama Senior (the former President's father) to secure a scholarship to the US, hailed from Homa Bay County. Just think about it," said Governor Awiti.

In tracing the roots of the Obamas in Kanyadhiang Village and why some of the family members moved to K'ogelo Village in Siaya County, the "Sunday Nation" learnt that Obama's ancestors had settled in Kanyadhiang in the 19th Century.

Obama's relations in the village seem not to agree on the dates they migrated and settled at Kanyadhiang. The late Obama Snr is the fourth generation within the Obama family tree line, said to have lived at Kanyadhiang before moving to Siaya. Mzee Yonga says that the first elders from the Obama clan to settle at Kanyadhiang were two brothers - Opiyo and Nyagwala. The time of their arrival in the village is considered to be around 1886.


"Opiyo Obama is the father of the great grandfather of the Obamas who became the father of Hussein Onyango Obama, and it was Hussein Onyango, a former British colonial cook, who fathered Barack Obama Snr in 1936," said Mzee Yonga.

It is narrated that the first descendant of the Obamas, who is believed to have moved out of Kanyadhiang and travelled to Alego K'ogelo in the late 1930s, was called Ndalo. Hussein Onyango Obama remained in Kanyadhiang with his family until disagreements with community members occasioned his migration, according to relatives.

Two incidents are believed to have occurred. First, Hussein Onyango Obama divorced his first wife Akumu, the daughter of Njoga, from the neighbouring Karabondi village.

Akumu left him with three children: Barack Obama Snr, and two daughters. Akumu got married to another man following claims of excessive cruelty on the part of Hussein, who had just returned after serving the British colonial masters as a cook in the coastal port town of Mombasa and the neighbouring Zanzibar Island.

After the two (Hussein and Akumu) parted ways, Hussein got married to the [now] 87-year-old Sarah, who is the step-grandmother of the former US president and in whose homestead Barack Obama Senior's remains are buried.


According to the late historian Leo Odera Omollo, between 1936 and 1940, Hussein Obama was the captain of Kanyadhiang Football Team, which did well in local football tournaments.

Mr Omollo, in his work on the Obamas lineage, says that the dispute started from a football match about the time when the late Mzee Paul Mboya was the colonial chief of the entire Karachuonyo region.

The team headed by Hussein Obama had defeated another team from the neighbouring Kogweno sub-clan in the final match. Kogweno was the sub-clan of the colonial Chief Mboya, who ruled the area with an iron fist, and was the darling of the British colonialists.


The chief defiantly refused to hand over the trophy after his clan's team lost 4-1 to the Kanyadhiang team. "The chief was known to be authoritative. Nobody questioned his rulings. But Hussein Onyango Obama, the father of Barack Obama Snr, forced his way to the chief's house and forcibly seized the trophy," says historian Leo Odera Omollo.

In retaliation, the Chief ordered some youths to invade Hussein Onyango Obama's house, which had a "makuti" roof, the only one of its kind in the area at the time.

It is said the invasion of the house angered Hussein Onyango Obama who decided to move out of Kanyadhiang village with his entire family. He followed his cousin Ndolo to Alego K'ogelo, where he settled and where his son, Barack Obama Snr, and his other siblings grew up.


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