Hussein Onyango Obama

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Sarah, said that her husband had supplied information to the Mau Mau and was jailed for two years.


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Barack Obama's grandfather was Hussein Onyango Obama (Hussein).   One source says he was born about 1895 and died in 1979.  He worked for the British colonial government and was a prominent and wealthy farmer.  Another source says Hussein was born in 1870 and died in 1975.


Hussein, as all of the Obamas, was a member of the Luo, Kenya's third-largest ethnic group, which is part of a larger family of ethnic groups, collectively also known as Luo.  This group belongs to the Eastern Sudanic branch of the Nilo-Saharan phylum.  The Obama family is largely concentrated in the western province of Nyanza.

Hussein lived for a time in Zanzibar, where he converted from Christianity to Islam.  He was one of the first Muslim converts in his village.

Hussein, for whom Obama was given the middle name, Hussein, was "fiercely devoted to Islam."   He had at least 3 wives: Helima, who had no children, Akuma who gave birth to Sarah Obama, Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. and Auma Obama.

Hussein's third wife Sarah is the one often referred to by Obama as his "grandmother."  She is not a blood relative and describes herself as a lifelong Muslim.  "I am a strong believer of the Islamic faith," she said


"What your grandfather respected was strength -- discipline."  Obama quoted his grandmother, Sarah, as telling him.  "This is also why he rejected the Christian religion.

"For a brief time, he converted, and even changed his name to Johnson.  But he could not understand such ideas as mercy towards your enemies, or that this man Jesus could wash away a man's sins."

"To your grandfather, this was foolish sentiment, something to comfort women," she added.  "And so he converted to Islam -- he thought its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs."

Sarah became the primary caregiver for Senior after his mother, Akuma, left the family while her children were still young.

The Insurgent
During Obama’s first visit to Kenya in 1988, his grandmother Sarah told him about the resentment against white colonial rule in Kenya, with rallies and mounting violence that would explode into full-scale rebellion in 1952.  "Most of this activity centered on Kikuyuland," she told him.  "But the Luo, too, were oppressed.  Men in our area began to join the Kikuyu"

"Granny Sarah" told Obama that Hussein Onyango Obama, Obama’s paternal grandfather, became involved in the Kenyan independence movement while working as a cook for a British army officer after World War II.  He was arrested in 1949 and jailed for two years in a high-security prison where, according to his family, he was subjected to horrific violence to extract information about the growing insurgency.  Sarah, said that her husband had supplied information to the insurgents.  "His job as cook to a British army officer made him a useful informer for the secret oathing movement which would later form the Mau Mau rebellion," she said.  "At the time the insurgents were secretly taking oaths which included promises to kill white settlers and colonialists," Mrs. Onyango said.

"To arrest a Luo, WW II veteran (Burma), who was a senior figure in the community, is pretty serious.  They must have had some damn good evidence," said Professor David Anderson, director of the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford, and an authority on the Mau Mau rebellion.

Obama refers briefly to his grandfather’s imprisonment in his best-selling memoir, "Dreams...," but states that his grandfather was held only for "more than six months."  Obama described his grandfather’s physical state: "When he returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty.  He had difficulty walking, and his head was full of lice."  For some time, he was too traumatized to speak about his experiences.
Another Obama Fantasy
Toby Harden is reporting that a new biography of Barack Obama has established that his grandfather was not, as is related in the President’s own memoir, detained by the British in Kenya and found that claims that he was tortured were a fabrication.
"Barack Obama: The Story" by David Maraniss catalogues dozens of instances in which Obama deviated significantly from the truth in his book "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." The 641-page book punctures the carefully-crafted narrative of Obama’s life.
One of the enduring myths of Obama’s ancestry is that his paternal grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, who served as a cook in the British Army, was imprisoned in 1949 by the British for helping the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebels and held for several months.
Obama’s step-grandmother Sarah, Onyango wife, who is still living, is quoted in Obama's memoir, as saying: "One day, the white man’s askaris came to take Onyango away, and he was placed in a detention camp."
But he had been in the camp for over six months, and when he returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty. He had difficulty walking, and his head was full of lice. He was so ashamed, he refused to enter his house or tell us what happened."
In a 2008 interview, Sarah Obama claimed that he was "whipped every morning and evening" by the British. "They would sometimes squeeze his testicles with metal rods. They also pierced his nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs tied together. He was lucky to survive. Some of his fellow inmates were mutilated with castration pliers and beaten to death with clubs.’
But Maraniss, who researched Obama’s life in Kenya, Indonesia, Hawaii and the mainland United States, found that there were ‘no remaining records of any detention, imprisonment, or trial of Hussein Onyango Obama’. He interviewed five people who knew Obama’s grandfather, who died in 1979, who "doubted the story or were certain it did not happen."
Fabricated?: 'Barack Obama: The Story' by David Maraniss catalogues dozens of instances in which Obama deviated significantly from the truth in his book .
This undermines the received wisdom that Obama’s grandfather was a victim of oppression, an assumption that has in turn fuelled theories that Obama harbours an animus towards Britain based on a deeply-rooted rage about the way Onyango was treated.
John Ndalo Aguk, who worked with Onyango before the alleged imprisonment and was in touch with him weekly afterwards said he "knew nothing' about any detention and would have noticed if he had gone missing for several months."
Zablon Okatch, who worked with Onyango as a servant to American diplomats after the supposed incarceration, said: "Hussein was never jailed. I know that for a fact. It would have been difficult for him to get a job with a white family, let alone a diplomat, if he once served in jail."
Charles Oluoch, whose father was adopted by Onyango, said that ‘he did not have any trouble with the government in any way'.
Dick Opar, a relative by marriage to Onyango and a senior Kenyan police official, gave what Maraniss judged to be the most authoritative word. ‘People make up stories,’ he said. "If you get arrested, you say it was the fight for independence, but they are arrested for another thing."
"I would have known. I would have known. If he was in Kamiti Prison for only a day, even if for a day, I would have known."
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