Just one day before the Jan. 3, 2008 Iowa caucus, Sen. Barack Hussein Obama Jr. (D-Ill.), who is aiming to be America's first African-American president, found himself taping a message from Iowa to Kenya for broadcast on the Voice of America.
Kenya, the homeland Obama Jr's family's Luo tribe, burst into post-election violence after Raila Odinga, a fiery Luo tribe opposition leader and Kenya presidential candidate, alleged the Dec. 27 voting that re-elected President Mwai Kibaki of the Kikuyu tribe was rigged
More than 360 people were killed and over 250,000 displaced provoking a humanitarian crisis in a country previously considered a stable pillar in east Africa.
"Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation, now is not the time to throw that strong democracy away. Now is a time for President Kibaki, opposition leader Odinga, and all of Kenya's leaders to call for calm, to come together, and to start a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them. Now is the time for this terrible violence to end," the senator, said in the message.
ABC's Diane Sawyer asked Obama Jr., on Jan. 3, about his appeal to the people of Kenya and "particularly to President Kibaki of the Kikuyu tribe" to do something to stop the violence.
"If you were the president, at this moment," Sawyer asked, "would you do more. Would you send in troops to stop that violence?"
"Well, I don't think we're at that stage yet. Obviously, at this point, we're monitoring the situation," Obama Jr. answered.
American conservatives already suspect that Obama Jr's much proclaimed opposition to America's war against Muslim terrorist in Iraq is more about his Muslim heritage than peace. Obama Jr's "I don't think we're at that stage yet" answer to Sawyer stirred immediate reaction from a former U.S. Congressman who saw the Sawyer interview. "Yet? We all know what that means. If elected, at what stage will Barack Obama be willing to send American servicemen and women into the Kenyan meat grinder."
Since the Kikuyu tribe of President Kibaki was the target of the killings and members of the Obama Jr's Lou tribe were doing the killing, one can image what the Kikuyu tribe thought of U.S. presidential candidate Obama Jr's plea for peace.
During a 2006 Kenya visit, Obama Jr. was asked if he sees himself as a Kenyan-American. He answered, "I'm an American and proud of it, and I'm also an African-American, which means I share a bond of struggle but also joy with people of African descent everywhere."
Obama Jr made a point of saying his heritage in Africa and Asia would shape his presidency, giving him special insight and impact on "the next hot spots" around the globe.
In August, 2006, Sen. Obama Jr. made an emotional visit to Kenya, the homeland of his late father Barack Hussein Obama Senior of the Luo tribe. It was a highly publicized visit, a prelude to Obama Jr's campaign to become President of the United States.
He has visited Kenya 3 times, in 1987, 1992, and 2006. His first, while he was in school, second while he was working as a community organizer in Chicago and third as a high profile United States Senator. He was welcomed as a U.S. Senator hero, "the son of a Luo tribesman."
In an interview, the senator said he hoped his trip would shine a spotlight on Africa's struggles, from the bloodshed in Sudan's Darfur region to the promise of elections in the Congo.
Obama Jr. told the people of Kenya that he wanted everyone in America to know about their troubles and promised to push for the United States to help.
"All of you are my brothers. All of you are my sisters," the Illinois Democrat, 46, said after his tour of Kibera, where "700,000 people jammed into 1 square mile, with little access to water and other basic services."
Odinga capitalized on Obama Jr's popularity by portraying Obama Jr's 2006 trip to Kenya as a personal endorsement for Odinga against the Kibaki government.
Odinga accusations against Kibaki boil down to ethnic-based tribal issues. Kibaki is of the Kikuyu tribe, known as Kenya's privileged tribe. Odinga is a Luo, a tribe that has long felt deprived and oppressed by the privileged. The Lou accuse the Kikuyu of continuing "imperialist exploitation and corruption."
After Obama Jr's 2006 visit, Odinga supporters created T-shirts and posters with computer-altered images showing Obama Jr. and Kenyan presidential candidate Odinga standing side by side with arms around each other.
That caused one excited Kenyan blogger to write, "in 2009, we might see a Luo president in Kenya, a Luo president in the USA, and a Luo ambassador in Washington, D.C."
In December 2006, a Kenyan posted an online message claiming a car jacking and killing of a leading Kenyan professor was an attempt by the Kikuyu tribe controlled government to "ethnically cleanse" Kenya of Luo's -- Obama's family tribe. The poster copied the senator as an indirect message to Obama Jr. -- "Stand up against the persecution of your tribe."
Just over a year later, on Sunday, Dec 30, 2007, all of Kenya was edged closer to tribal warfare when over 100 people were murdered in a church were they had fled for refuge.
More than 200 people, mainly Kikuyus, the same tribe as President Kibaki, were desperately seeking safety in the Kenya Assemblies of God church when a gang of 2000 armed young men drawn from the Luo, Kalenjin and Luhya tribes stormed and torched the church. Witnesses reported that when people - at least 80 of them children -tried to flee being burned alive, they where hacked to death with machetes.
The attackers were backers of defeated presidential candidate Odinga who is claiming that President Kibaki had rigged the election.
Obama Jr's African roots
Obama Jr. says his quest for the presidency was "inspired" by his "love of the country [Africa] that allowed his father to triumph against astonishing odds."
Obama Jr's father was born a member of the Luo tribe in Nyangoma-Kogelo, Siaya District, Kenya. Senior's Luo father (Obama Jr's grandfather), Hussein Onyango Obama, was a prominent and wealthy farmer who converted from Christianity to Islam.
In Obama Jr's book, Dreams From My Father, his step-grandmother Sarah Obama traces his male ancestral line in Africa back 12 generations. Obama Jr. has at least one great and revered Luo leader on the African side of his ancestry.
One of Obama Jr's great grandfathers (several generations back), "Owiny" was said to be a powerful leader of the Luo tribe, which moved into Kenya some 400 years ago.
Sarah Obama, a devout Muslim, was quoted telling Obama Jr. "What your grandfather respected was strength. Discipline. This is also why he rejected the Christian religion, I think. For a brief time he converted [to Christianity], 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 a foolish sentiment, something to comfort women. And so he converted to Islam-he thought its practices conformed more closely to his beliefs."
Obama Jr's grandfather, for whom he 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. The third wife was Sarah, who Obama Jr. refers to as his "grandmother." Sarah became the primary care giver for Senior after his mother, Akuma, left the family when her children were still young.
At 18, Obama Jr's father, Barack Obama Sr. (Senior), married a girl called Kezia from a local village.
Four years later (1957) Obama Sr., because of his father's wealth and influence, was awarded an American sponsored scholarship in economics to the University of Hawaii. The presumption was that Obama Sr. would return to Africa and use his "Western-honed skills in a new Kenya."
At the age of 23, Obama Sr. left behind his pregnant wife Kezia and their children to become the first African student enrolled at the University of Hawaii.
Obama Sr's other wives
While still married to Kezia, Obama Sr. married fellow University of Hawaii student Anna Dunham, an 18 year old white anthropology major. Anna gave birth to a son on August 4th, 1961 in Honolulu. Obama Sr., a Muslim, chose the Muslim Koranic name, Barack Hussein Obama, for his son. The middle name "Hussein" to honor Muslim grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama.
Two years later, Obama Sr. abandoned Anna and Obama Jr. for a scholarship to pursue a PhD program in economics at Harvard University.
In June 1964, Obama Sr. returned to Kenya to work for the Jomo Kenyatta administration. Soon after, he married another white woman, his third wife, an American-born teacher called Ruth, who he met at Harvard. She followed him back home to Africa and conceived 2 children by him. He fathered 2 more children by Kezia.
Anna divorced Obama Sr. when Obama Jr. was 6 to marry Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim. Soetoro moved his new family to Indonesia, the worlds most populous Muslim country. Obama's half-sister, Maya Soetoro was born in Indonesia.
Obama Senior died in 1982, the result of an alcohol-related car accident (his second) in Kenya. He left behind three wives, one mistress, six sons and a daughter -- also a possible eighth child by a mistress. Although Obama Jr. claims Senior was an atheist, Senior was buried as a Muslim. Obama Jr's mother, Anna, died of cancer a few months after the publication of his 1995 memoir.
Obama Jr's Muslim schooling
Soetoro enrolled Obama Jr. in an Indonesian Catholic school and later in one of Jakarta's Muslim controlled public schools.
During his time in Indonesia, Obama Jr, was known as Barry Soetoro. He attended first grade at a Catholic elementary school near his home, St. Francis of Assisi Foundation School, which accepted students of any religion. Barry's primary school teacher said he registered as a Muslim and that he attended Koranic religious class.
"At that time, Barry was also praying in a Catholic way, but Barry was Muslim. He was registered as a Muslim because his father was Muslim." Barry's first-grade teacher Israella Dharmawan told the San Francisco Times
"Barry was a Muslim. He went to the mosque," boyhood buddy Zulfin Adi told the Times.
"My whole family was Muslim, and most of the people I knew were Muslim," half sister Maya told another reporter.
In the third grade, Obama transferred to a public school, where he also registered as a Muslim. Students at the school attended weekly religion lessons about Islam which were taught by Muslims.
In his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama mentioned studying the Quran and describing the public school as "a Muslim school."
Obama Jr's American Schooling
At age 10 Obama's mother sent him to live with his white grandparents in Hawaii and attend the prestigious Punahou Academy.
After high school, Obama Jr. attended Columbia University and then to the streets of Chicago as a community organizer and the Trinity United Church of Christ of Chicago.
Obama Jr. denies that he has ever been a Muslim, He says he is a Christian with "deep faith rooted in the Christian tradition."
He points to his membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ, which bears the motto "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian." Trinity United's web site declares its congregation to be "an African people" who remain true to "our native land, the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."
Obama Jr's mentor, the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright
As a long time member of Trinity United, Obama Jr. has been exposed to the teachings of black nationalist minister, Jeremiah A. Wright, who preaches "African-American unity through antipathy toward whites."
Rev. Wright, a skilled and fiery orator, teaches a doctrine that reflects black liberation theology, which views the Bible in part as a record of the struggles of "people of color" against oppression. Rev. Wright's interpretation of the Scriptures has been described as "Afrocentric."
Today, Rev. Wright remains a major influence on the presidential candidate Obama Jr. The title of Obama Jr's second book, The Audacity of Hope, is borrowed from one of Wright's sermons.
One of Obama Jr's campaign themes has been his claim that conservative evangelicals have "hijacked" Christianity, ignoring issues like poverty, AIDS, and racism.
Obama Jr's American forebears were slave owners
Many people know that Democratic presidential candidate Obama Jr's father was from Kenya and his mother from Kansas. But, (quoting a Mar.2, 2007 report in the Baltimore Sun), "an intriguing sliver of his [Obama Jr.] family history has received almost no attention until now: It appears that forebears of his white mother owned slaves, according to genealogical research and census records.
" . . . The records could add a new dimension to questions by some who have asked whether Obama - who was raised in East Asia and Hawaii and educated at Columbia and Harvard - is attuned to the struggles of American blacks descended from West African slaves."
Obama Jr's African forebears were slave traders
In the 18th century, Muslim slavers moved into the interior of Kenya for the purpose of exploiting blood rivalries between local tribes. Muslims encouraged warring tribes, Obama Jr's Luo ancestors included, to capture "prisoners of war" and sell them into slavery.
Kenya tribe leaders, also exported slaves and ivory that had been exchanged by Africans from the interior for salt, cloth, beads, and metal goods. The slaves were then marched to the coast and shipped to Muslim Zanzibar (an island South of Kenya), to be traded again.
African slaves and ivory became hugely profitable and Zanzibar Muslims grew rich on the trade. Slave trading continued despite the public outrage in Europe demanding an end to all slave trade.
The British, eventually brought their forceful anti-slavery message directly to the Muslim Sultan.
After years of pressure, the Sultan finally relented and agreed to ban slavery in 1847. It was not until 1876, 11 years after the American Civil War had ended, that the sale of slaves was finally prohibited in Zanzibar.