By Mukurima Muriuki
Barrack Obama just finished his second trip in Africa in as many years of his presidency, now in the second term. Many however, are surprised that Obama ignored the country of his father in his trip. But maybe there is more than just the snub. Could Obama still be carrying grudge on the circumstances that one can say accelerated Obama Senior’s demise? Well, in the book Dreams From my Father, Auma, and Obamaâ€™s half sister narrates the following story. It could be a pointer to maybe why Obama loathes the Kenyatta’s
â€œThen things began to change. When Ruth gave birth to Mark and David, her attention shifted to them. The Old Man, he left the American company to work in the government, for the Ministry of Tourism. He may have had political ambitions and at first he was doing well in the government. But by 1966 or 1967, the divisions in Kenya had become more serious. President Kenyatta was from the largest tribe, the Kikuyus. Â The Luos, the second largest tribe, began to complain that the Kikuyus were getting all the best jobs. The government was full of intrigue.
The Vice president, Odinga, was a Luo and he said the government was becoming corrupt. That, instead of serving those who had fought for independence, Kenya politicians had taken the place of the white colonials, buying up businesses and land that should be redistributed to the people. Odinga tried to start his own party, but was placed under house arrest as a Communist. Another popular Luo minister, Tom Mboya, was killed by a Kikuyu gunman. Luos began to protest in the streets and the government police cracked down. People were killed. All this created more suspicion between tribes.
Most of the Old Manâ€™s friends just kept quiet and learned to live with the situation. But the Old Man began to speak up. He would tell people that tribalism was going to ruin the country and that unqualified men were taking the best jobs. His friends tried to warn him about saying such things in public, but he dint care. He always thought he knew what was best, you see. When he was passed up for a promotion, he complained loudly. â€˜How can you be my senior,â€™ he would say to one of the ministers, â€˜and yet I am teaching you how to do your job properly?â€™ Word got back to Kenyatta that the Old Man was a troublemaker, and he was called in to see the president. According to the stories, Kenyatta said to the Old Man that, because he could not keep his mouth shut, he would not work again until he had not shoes on his feet.Â
I donâ€™t know how much of these details are true. But I know that with the president as enemy things became very bad for the Old Man. He was banished from the government-blacklisted. None of the ministries would give him work. When he went to foreign companies to look for a post, the companies were warned not to hire him. He began looking abroad and was hired to work for the African Development Bank in Addis Ababa, but before he could join them, the government revoked his passport, and he could not even leave Kenya.
Finally, he had to accept a small job with the Water Department. Even this was possible only because one of his friends pitied him. The job kept food on the table, but it was a big fall for him. The Old Man began to drink heavily, and many of the people he knew stopped coming to visit because now it was dangerous to be seen with him. They told him that maybe if he apologized, changed his attitude, he would be all right. But he refused and continued to say whatever was on his mind.
I understood most of this only when I was older. At the time, I just saw that life at home became very difficult. The Old Man never spoke to Roy or myself except to scold us. He would come home very late, drunk and I could hear shouting at Ruth, telling her to cook him some food. Ruth became very bitter at how the Old Man had changed. Â Sometimes, when he wasnâ€™t home, she would tell Roy and myself that our father was crazy and that she pitied us for having such a father. I did not blame her for this-I probably agreed. But I noticed that, even more than before, she treated us differently from her own two sons. She would say that we were not her children and there was only so much she could do to help us. Roy and I began to feel like we had no one. And when Ruth left the Old Man, that feeling was not far from the truth.
She left when I was twelve or thirteen, after the Old Man had had a serious car accident. He had been drinking, I think and the driver of the other car, a white farmer was killed. When the Old Man finally got out of the hospital, thatâ€™s when he went to visit you and your mom in Hawaii. He told us that the two of you would be coming back with him and that then we would have a proper family. But you werenâ€™t with him when he returned and Roy and I were left to deal with him by ourselves.Â
Because of the accident, the Old Man had now lost his job at the Water Department, and we had no place to live. For a while, we bounced around from relative to relative, but eventually they would put us out because they had their own troubles. The old man had so little man; he would have to borrow from relatives just for food. This made him more ashamed, I think, and his temper got worse.Â
In my last two years in high school, the Old Manâ€™s situation improved. Kenyatta died, and somehow the Old Man was able to work again in government. He got a job with the Ministry of Finance and started to have money again, and influenceâ€