Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Continuing and ending posts on Hussein Onyango Obama

This one is hard to write. There isn't much to go on, except a whole lot of speculation--a fertile field for political spin.

As you recall, we have Hussein Onyango Obama returned from the WWII. The last post in this series, I really tried to contextualize the world to which he returned and the inability of any African man to succeed in colonial structures. Feeling the power, as my Tanzanian informants would have said, "coming down from the top", they had no power and no route to achieve a meaningful livelihood--no way to feel valued, no way to feel anything but disenfranchised. Returning vets became drivers, and low-level agricultural inspectors--manual laborers and menial clerical staff, at best. Unemployed and hungry, at worst. Supposedly, Hussein Onyango Obama found employment as a cook for a white man in Nairobi. Sometime in 1949 (two years after Indian independence) Mzee Obama is arrested and incarcerated by the British for an unknown period of time. The spin on the story is that he is arrested in one of the precursor systems of political organization which would result in Mau Mau. Mau Mau, itself, does not, officially, "begin" until 1952, by then Mzee Obama has returned home to Siaya by all accounts a badly beaten man. Physically. Beaten.

I have seen some of the judgements levelled against Obama's grandfather because of his supposed Mau Mau sentiments. Whatever his involvement may or may not have been, I want these statistics close to those judgements:

32 whites killed.............................12,000-70,000 Africans killed,
..................................................est. 71,000 Africans detained

Enough? Or do we need more?

Back home in Siaya, Mzee Obama settles in to become a successful farmer, respected elder, and healer. Toward the end of his life he is reported to have stated:

“How can the African defeat the white man when he cannot even make his own bicycle.”

Perhaps you could interpret this as a condemnation of Africans. I prefer an alternate interpretation, lacking the capital to compete and control their own economic destiny, African cannot and will not ever "defeat" or compete against the white man.

The future would lie, elsewhere with the promise of a new possibility. His son Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. would find his way to a world power which, at that time, appeared to offer the best hope of success for an African man. America.

On what would become the Tom Mboya Airlift.

1 comment:

tina said...

I had the pleasure of attending your symposium presentation on Hussein Onyango Obama and I am glad that you have recreated the presentation on your blog. Thanks!