Barack Hussein Obama. The first black President in American history.
Friday July 24th 2015. Barack Obama becomes the first sitting US president to visit Kenya.
8.02 pm. This was the time Airforce One landed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and President Obama came bounding down the plane with the effortless energy of a man 20 years his junior.
On the runway, with a bouquet of flowers in her arms, ready to receive the most powerful man in the world, was a small girl. The girl’s name was Joan Wamathai.
President Obama engaged the young girl on a banter which only the two of them know what they talked about. Of course, given her young age, it is highly unlikely little Joan appreciates the gravity of the occasion, but in her later years she will be proud of the moment she welcomed Obama to the land of his roots.
The official purpose of Obama’s visit, however, was nothing sentimental. Rather, he had come to Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. In attendance were such entrepreneurial luminaries as Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
Understandably, given Obama’s personal history, the visit became more about his connections to Africa as a Continent, and in particular, Kenya as his father’s home.
Obama’s autobiography, Dreams from my Father, is an excellent read, placed on the same pedestal as Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
In the book, Obama narrates the turmoil he underwent growing up without a father. One feels for him as a young boy, as he struggles to explain to himself this void in his life. So, when he became an adult, he decided to reconnect himself to his father’s roots.
It was to this end that he decided to come to Kenya before joining Harvard Law School. Before coming to Kenya, he had spent some time in Europe. Although, the place was beautiful, he felt that he couldn’t enjoy it as much because it wasn’t his home. He only felt complete when he came to Kenya, the land of his father’s birth.
When Obama won the 2008 elections, the whole black world went wild with euphoria. Finally, one of them had ascended to the highest office in the World.
In Kenya especially, the pride was immense because this was one of their own.
It has taken Obama over six (6) years to visit the land of his birth as President. It is for this reason, that to Kenyans, the Global Entrepreneurship Summit only served as a convenient backdrop to the real event: Obama’s homecoming.
He could not have dared come earlier. Back then, he had been vying for a second term in office and Republicans of the ilk of Donald Trump were questioning his right to the American presidency by virtue of his Kenyan heritage. Coming to Kenya earlier would have been political suicide.
When Barack Obama first came to Kenya 27 years ago, he was picked from the airport by his Sister, Auma in an old battered Volkswagen Beetle. The car’s muffler came unstuck on the way to Auma’s apartment.
When he came in 2015, he came on Airforce One. This time, he gave Auma a ride in his car, The Beast. Thankfully, it had no muffler issues.
Officially, Obama came to Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. However, in our hearts, souls and minds, he came here to his father’s home, as any other son of Africa would.
Barack Obama came home.