Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hussein Onvango Obama

Something doesn’t quite add up in the account by Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandmother that her husband was arrested by the British in 1949 as part of the crackdown against the Mau Mau uprising.

We’ll pass on the myriad accusations of torture that fly around.  I wasn’t there, and it’s proved beyond reasonable doubt that torture did happen under British rule – though I remain to be convinced that it was quite as institutionalised as Caroline Elkins claims in Britain’s Gulag – which is a stupidly sensationalist title in my opinion.

But even on the very barest bones of the case as presented this smells funny.  It’s alleged that:

Hussein Onyango was arrested in 1949 and jailed for two years in a high security prison as the British struggled to quell one of Africa's bloodiest and most desperate rebellions against colonial rule.

So, he was released in 1951.  But Mau Mau didn’t really start until 1952 – there was no uprising in 1949 certainly.  Furthermore, Mau Mau was overwhelmingly a Kikuyu rebellion.  Hussein Onyango Obama was a Luo.  The Luo played almost no part in Mau Mau – indeed were tainted post-independence as non-activist precisely because of their lack of involvement.

His family allege he was tortured by his British guards to extract information about the insurgency.

“The African warders were instructed by the white soldiers to whip him every morning and evening till he confessed,” said Sarah Onyango, Hussein Onyango’s third wife, told the Times.

Information on an insurgency that the British were not aware of until a year after he was released?  Looks a bit fishy really.  In fact it looks like the standard line used by nearly everyone in Africa post-independence - "look we were tortured for our stand for independence too!"  Doesn't pass the smell test.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a mugikuyu and may i put some things straight. The maumau oathing/kiathi/muma began immediately after the second world war. The anake a forty,or the forty group had started oathing and recruiting by 1947. in 1952,a state of emergency was declared after the murder of a chief.
The Luos were not directly involved,but Obama grandfather worked in the white highlands for a army officer and so must have been suspected of aiding in intelligence.


10:13 am  
Blogger Tim J said...

thanks kamau, that's very interesting. I'm not entirely convinced by the grandmother as a witness, she's also claimed to have been at Obama's birth in Kenya, but still...

2:50 pm  

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