NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 16 – His first and best-selling book Dreams from my Father tells of his maiden trip to his father’s homeland of Kenya and Barack Obama says even his victorious return as the first African-American US President is unlikely to rival its significance.
Obama who tells of kneeling and weeping at his father’s graveside in Kogelo in the book, on Wednesday told journalists “visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as President.”
The reason he gave are the security constraints that come with being President and that it would keep him from fully experiencing Kenya. “The logistics of visiting the place are always tough as President,” he said.
He did however acknowledge the “symbolic” nature of the visit which he said would focus on the gains Kenya has made in the areas of health and education, but not fail to address the challenges of terrorism given, “some of the tragedies that have happened inside of Kenya,” and corruption.
“We can continue to encourage democracy and the reduction of corruption inside that country that sometimes has held back this incredibly gifted and blessed country.”
It remains unclear whether his visit will include a trip back to Kogelo as it did when he visited the country as Senator and as pleaded for by his step-grandmother Sarah Obama who has promised to cook him anything he wants.
“Whether Obama is a Senator or a President, he will eat any and all types of food be it omena, chicken, fish, obambla and even porridge. Whatever people eat, he also eats, he does not choose and I will prepare everything for him,” she told journalists earlier in the month when she called on Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero.
Should he honour her invitation or not, Obama’s statement to the American press on Wednesday is an indication that his father’s final resting place still holds the same significance for him as it on his first visit to Kenya as a young man on journey of self discovery.
In Dreams from my Father he narrates, “I saw two long rectangles of cement jutting out of the earth like a pair of exhumed coffins. There was a plaque on one of the graves: HUSSEIN ONYANGO OBAMA, B. 1895. D. 1979… For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept. When my tears were finally spent, I felt a calmness wash over me. I felt the circle finally close. I realised that who I was, what I cared about… was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name.”