The Standard, Kenya

'My Life with Obama Senior'


"He asked to dance with me during a party and I couldn't turn him down. He picked me out of several girls that were there. A few days later, I married him ... He paid 14 cows as dowry for me, which were delivered in two batches. That was because he loved me so greatly."


-- Grace Keziah Obama, First Wife of Barack Obama Sr.


By John Oywa


November 11, 2008


Kenya - The Standard - Original Article (English)

The first wife of President-elect Barack Obama's father, Grace Keziah Obama, is spilling the beans on her beloved former husband.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Raw video footage of Obama's arrival at the White House, Nov. 11, 00:01:19RealVideo

On the day that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and and his wife Michelle were treated to a visit to the White House, Obamaís stepmother broke her silence on life with the Senatorís father.


Grace Keziah Obama, 67, who now lives in Bracknell, U.K., but who is currently visiting the rest of the family in Kogelo [Kenya], says her late husband - who also known as Barack Obama - was a loving man with a taste for the good things in life. She says he also spoke his mind and liked the truth.


Speaking to The Standard at her house in Kogelo, Keziah narrated how she met Obama Senior at a village dance party deep in the rugged plains of Karachuonyo.


She was only 16 and attending school. She had no idea that the young man courting her that Christmas night in 1956, would one day father the future president of the most powerful nation on earth. Keziah says Obama Senior was so handsome and stylish that she couldn't resist his advances.


"During the party he asked me to dance and I couldn't turn him down. He picked me out from several girls. A few days later, I married him," Keziah says, her face beaming with nostalgia. "He paid 14 cows as a dowry, which were delivered in two batches. This was because he loved me so greatly," she says.


As she spoke, Obama was to meet U.S. President George W Bush for consultations in the White House ahead of his inauguration on January 20. First Lady Laura was to show Michelle around their soon-to-be residence. Obama made history by winning the U.S. election on November 4, becoming the first African-American to serve in the Oval Office.


Back in Kogelo, Keziah told this reporter about her first meeting with Obama Senior.


Apparently, Obama Senior had gone visiting his relatives in Karachuonyo in South Nyanza when he met her at the party. He was the first-born son of Mzee Hussein Onyango. Now, 52 years on, Keziah looks back at her days with Obama Senior with a sense of amusement at the turn of events that would later shape their lives.




She first met her stepson, U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, when he visited Kogelo village in 1988. Keziah says she was "delighted to see him" and that they have since communicated on a number of occasions.


LADY KILLERS: Obama Junior and Senior

"When I look at my stepson, he reminds me of his father. They share very many characteristics. Like father, like son, I would say," she says. "He was forthright and loved the truth. This is what I'm seeing in his son," Keziah says, adding that just like Barack, his father was a great speaker, out-going, colorful and intelligent.


"I never had a dull moment with him. He liked fun and loved good things. Which is why I wasn't surprised when I heard that he had married a second wife in the U.S.," she quips.


Keziah explains how her husband Obama was such a great dancer that he often took her out for live band performances to as far off as Kendu Bay.


"We used to carry our first born baby (Malik) with us and put him to sleep in a cot as we danced," she says.




In 1964, during the famous airlifts organized by late Planning Minister Tom Mboya, Obama Senior left for the United States for further studies. "I remember escorting him to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, then known as Embakasi airport," she says. "He asked me to take care of our then only child, Malik Abongo, who was six years old. I was pregnant with our second - Rita Auma."


After arriving in the United States, however, her husband fell in love with another woman - Ann Dunham (Barackís mother - who he later married). In keeping with the Luo custom, Obama Senior sought her consent to take another wife, which she granted.


Keziah says she was happy to have a co-wife, and that her husband kept her updated. He informed her when Barack Obama Junior was born. She says that despite her husband marrying another woman, she still loved him.


"He used to send me gifts, money and clothes through the post office. Many people envied me," she said. "He returned to Kenya at the end of 1964 and we moved to Shauri Moyo estate in Nairobi," she says. She gave birth to two more sons - Mustapha Nyandega and Sadik Otieno, born in 1968 and 1971 respectively.


President to be Barack Obama Jr., and his mother, Ann Dunham

Life continued to be good for them until things took a turn in 1984 when her husband died in a car accident in Nairobi. Keziah says she was devastated and that from then on, life was never the same. For example, she had to relocate to be with her daughter Auma in the United Kingdom where she has been undergoing treatment.




Her eldest son Malik, 50, is a businessman and frequently speaks with "Obama Junior", his stepbrother. "The last time I spoke with him was a few hours before the election. He was upbeat and assured me that he would win," says Malik.††



Malik remembers how the U.S. President-elect asked him on two occasions to represent the family at his functions in the United States. "I represented our late father at Barackís wedding when he married Michelle in 1992. It was a wonderful occasion," Malik says.


In 2005, Malik was back in the U.S. again when he and Mama Sarah, his step-grandmother, attended Obama Juniorís inauguration as senator for Illinois in Chicago. "His victory is the biggest honor the American people have given us in this century," quips Malik.


Malik says celebrations that began soon after Obama juniorís election victory were still going on. "We continue to receive visitors and are quite happy. We have slaughtered many bulls; meanwhile, the party continues Ö" concluded Malik.

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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US November 11, 10:29pm]


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