Toby Harden is
new biography of Barack Obama has established that his
grandfather was not, as is related in the President’s own
memoir, detained by the British in Kenya and found that claims
that he was tortured were a fabrication.
"Barack Obama: The Story" by David Maraniss catalogues dozens of
instances in which Obama deviated significantly from the truth
in his book "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and
Inheritance." The 641-page book punctures the carefully-crafted
narrative of Obama’s life.
One of the enduring myths of Obama’s ancestry is that his
paternal grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama, who served as a cook
in the British Army, was imprisoned in 1949 by the British for
helping the anti-colonial Mau Mau rebels and held for several
Obama’s step-grandmother Sarah, Onyango wife, who is still
living, is quoted in Obama's memoir, as saying: "One day, the
white man’s askaris came to take Onyango away, and he was placed
in a detention camp."
But he had been in the camp for over six months, and when he
returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty. He had difficulty
walking, and his head was full of lice. He was so ashamed, he
refused to enter his house or tell us what happened."
In a 2008 interview, Sarah Obama claimed that he was "whipped
every morning and evening" by the British. "They would sometimes
squeeze his testicles with metal rods. They also pierced his
nails and buttocks with a sharp pin, with his hands and legs
tied together. He was lucky to survive. Some of his fellow
inmates were mutilated with castration pliers and beaten to
death with clubs.’
But Maraniss, who researched Obama’s life in Kenya, Indonesia,
Hawaii and the mainland United States, found that there were ‘no
remaining records of any detention, imprisonment, or trial of
Hussein Onyango Obama’. He interviewed five people who knew
Obama’s grandfather, who died in 1979, who "doubted the story or
were certain it did not happen."
Fabricated?: 'Barack Obama: The Story' by David Maraniss
catalogues dozens of instances in which Obama deviated
significantly from the truth in his book .
This undermines the received wisdom that Obama’s grandfather was
a victim of oppression, an assumption that has in turn fuelled
theories that Obama harbours an animus towards Britain based on
a deeply-rooted rage about the way Onyango was treated.
John Ndalo Aguk, who worked with Onyango before the alleged
imprisonment and was in touch with him weekly afterwards said he
"knew nothing' about any detention and would have noticed if he
had gone missing for several months."
Zablon Okatch, who worked with Onyango as a servant to American
diplomats after the supposed incarceration, said: "Hussein was
never jailed. I know that for a fact. It would have been
difficult for him to get a job with a white family, let alone a
diplomat, if he once served in jail."
Charles Oluoch, whose father was adopted by Onyango, said that
‘he did not have any trouble with the government in any way'.
Dick Opar, a relative by marriage to Onyango and a senior Kenyan
police official, gave what Maraniss judged to be the most
authoritative word. ‘People make up stories,’ he said. "If you
get arrested, you say it was the fight for independence, but
they are arrested for another thing."
"I would have known. I would have known. If he was in Kamiti
Prison for only a day, even if for a day, I would have known."