Barrack Obama was recently in Kenya, for the first time since he retired from the White House as POTUS.
However, his visit to the land of his forefathers – his second since he became POTUS – has sparked mixed reactions from Kenyans, especially from Kenyan politicians and various social media commentaries.
One of the most notable politicians who had something to say about Obama’s visit is former Kakamega senator Bonny Khalwale, who is also commonly referred to as the “Bullfighter” due to his obsession with the sport of Bullfighting. Here is what Hon. Khalwale had to say on his Twitter handle immediately after Obama left the country:
“Dear Barack Obama, I believe u have landed safely in South Africa, and hope that this finds u well. With tremendous respect Sir, can u tell us why while u were in the most powerful office (of the world’s biggest economy) u refused to bring development to ua home, Kenya?” asked Khalwale.
My fellow countrymen never cease to amaze me. I have been bemusedly reading so much of such stuff full of “Obama didn’t do this, Obama didn’t do that for Kenya…bla bla bla…when he was POTUS.”
Why do Kenyans always expect too much from people who owe them nothing? Obama owes Kenyans NADA and they should cut the man some slack. Instead, Kenyans need to concentrate on holding their inept and corrupt leaders accountable!
As a matter of fact, the only connection between Kenyans and Obama is a deadbeat father who abandoned the-would-be future United States president and his mother when he was just a little boy! Shouldn’t this fact alone make Kenyans feel ashamed of wanting to fully own Obama?
Maybe this lack of shame might be attributed to the fact that the culture of deadbeat fathers resurfacing and claiming ownership of the children they abandoned long ago, after these children grow up and become successful, is very rampant in Kenya.
There is no denying that Obama’s biological father was Kenyan. However, that can’t be reason enough to expect too much from the man. Did we expect him to include Kenya in the annual American budget when he was POTUS, while we let our own leaders rape and plunder our economy with abandon?
The man had a superpower to run, besides having numerous complex global issues to deal with, for crying out loud! We can’t also forget that American politicians from the right and far-right wing were always poised, as vultures, waiting for a slight misstep from the son of Kogelo, so that they could totally roast him and have him for dinner.
In fact, even some people from his own left-leaning Democratic Party had their doubts about Obama’s citizenship and had raised the issue during the Democratic Party primaries, in which Obama trounced Hillary Clinton.
This means that Obama’s loyalty to America was under serious scrutiny right from the first day he became president. If he showed any fondness or favoritism towards Kenya, he could immediately be accused of having divided loyalty to his country.
When will Kenyans wake to the reality that there is no messianic figure, who will come from outside, to change the status quo in this country? After every five years, we wake up at dawn to elect known thieves, drug barons and incorrigibly corrupt individuals to high office, just because they come from our tribes, then we expect people from outside the country to help us! How?
Unless we all decide to sanitize our primitively tribal politics, as a people, we shall keep on having patented thieves and economic saboteurs as leaders in the highest offices of the land. That means that the begging bowl will never leave our hands!
So, how was Obama supposed to change Kenya? First, we must understand that, in spite of his Kenyan roots, Obama is as American as the Statue of Liberty – that imposing sculpture on Liberty Island in New York City, whose torch purports to light the way to freedom and liberty.
However, what the American minorities – made of mainly blacks, Hispanics and Latinos – have been going through, especially under the current POTUS – Donald Trump’s – hurtful immigration policies, makes a mockery of the symbolic torch held aloft by the iconic colossus. But that’s a story for another day.
As POTUS, Obama’s first and foremost call of duty was to serve the American people and take care of his country’s global interests. Let nobody cheat you that America gives a shit about any country’s welfare in the entire world. Obama would choose America over Kenya anytime where is country’s interests are concerned.
The interests of the US always come first for any POTUS, and that’s how the country has managed to maintain her superpower status for a while now. This is a tradition that Obama couldn’t break in favour of Kenya.
Some Kenyans have dismissively said that there is nothing Obama can do for Kenya now that he didn’t do while he was POTUS. I am of a contrary opinion. Obama can now lobby for Kenya better, as a retired POTUS and private citizen of America, than when he was in the strait jacket that the White House is.
In the US the constitution reigns supreme and this makes it very difficult for any POTUS to operate as he or she wishes.
Perhaps we are too used to presidents who make roadside declarations and dish developmental goodies, which are not even budgeted for, in political rallies.
Did we expect Obama to do the same?
Remember the “birther” movement? There are people from the far right wing of American politics who couldn’t reconcile with the fact that Obama had actually become their new POTUS in 2009.
Dr Orly Taitz, the conspiracy theorist who produced a dubious birth certificate claiming that Obama was born in Mombasa Kenya, represented this group. They hoped that this would be used to unseat the first black American to occupy the White House.
This means that, back in the USA Obama’s “Kenyanness” was used against him from the get go. He was pushed to an extent that, at some point, the White House was forced to produce documents proving that he was actually born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Since then, Obama knew that his detractors in the American politics had him under close scrutiny, waiting for him to make any move about Kenya so that they could use it against him.
This can explain why Obama avoided coming to Kenya during his first term in office. Some argue that Obama could have used his position as the most powerful man in the world to impose electoral justice and democracy in Kenya. Could he?
He knew better than immerse himself in the murky and highly tribal Kenyan politics and he was right in giving it a wide berth.
Suppose Obama supported the Kenyan opposition led by Raila Odinga by then in the name of strengthening democracy? He would instantly be labelled a “jaruo” supporting a fellow “jaruo”! And that’s Kenyan politics for you.
Now is the right time for Obama to lobby the world and some bring development projects to Kenya without worrying about his country’s homeland politics. But first, Kenyans must first get off their butts and understand that the task of making Kenya a prosperous and respectable country primarily lies on their shoulders.
Opening the Youth Center, run by his sister Auma, in Kogelo (his father’s village) is definitely a good starting point. The least we can do is to welcome the famous son of the soil, anytime he wants to visit Kenya, without giving him too much negative press. Let’s cut the son of Kogelo some slack.
The writer is a website content developer/copywriter/copy editor and SEO expert.
A global citizen who believes in human justice and dignity, Gilbert Kenya is also currently a student of Political Science, Psychology & Communication at The University of Nairobi.
An Aficionado of Local & Global Politics, alongside diverse genres of literature, he is fully persuaded that there is always enough to go round for all of us.
Gilbert writes for a living, but above all, lives and breathes writing. His favourite maxim is: "LIVE AND LET LIVE. While at it laugh and love more; you are not here forever!
When not writing, you will find Gilbert Kenya living happily with his lovely wife Betty and their two little angels, Ray and Ivy, in the great "City in the Sun" - Nairobi.
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