Feature

Kenya: We’ve failed to capitalize on Obama

“Where is a Kenyan film on Obama? The books by Kenyans on Obama?” asked Tom Odhiambo in the Daily Nation.

Tom Odhiambo
Daily Nation

Why haven’t Kenyans made any money off the Obama name? asked Tom Odhiambo. It’s already been two years since the son of a Kenyan was elected president of the U.S., and given the “racial vitriol that the name Obama evokes in many conservative and racist white Americans,” there probably won’t be a second term. So we’ve got just two years left in the Obama presidency. “Where is a Kenyan film on Obama? The books by Kenyans on Obama?” Why aren’t tourists flocking to the Obama clan’s ancestral lands? Foreigners are certainly making money writing about Obama. A British writer, for example, has just come out with a book that “claims to trace Obama’s ancestry up to around the year 1250,” and Americans have released documentaries and biographies galore.

But there’s still plenty of untapped potential. The president’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama served in the British army in Burma, was tortured for his involvement with anticolonialist rebels, converted to Islam, and went on to “introduce the ‘white ways,’ or what we tend to call ‘modernity,’ back in Luoland.” The president’s father, Barack Sr., was an economist with a love of drinking and a “love of women.” Their stories are “really still untold.” Where is the Kenyan who will tell them?

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