President Obama’s Kenyan roots and relatives

July 21, 2015 11:52 am
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Obama's father, Barack Obama Senior, was born in 1936, to Hussein's second wife Akumu. Hussein's third wife, Sarah Onyango Obama, is Obama's oldest living relative, whom he calls "granny"/AFP-File
Obama’s father, Barack Obama Senior, was born in 1936, to Hussein’s second wife Akumu. Hussein’s third wife, Sarah Onyango Obama, is Obama’s oldest living relative, whom he calls “granny”/AFP-File
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 21 – President Barack Obama’s family tree reaches from his father’s tiny Kenyan village to the White House in a single generation.

The president’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama was born in Kendu Bay, western Kenya, in 1895 (the family grave in the village of Kogelo says 1870).

Taking the name Hussein when he converted to Islam, he served as a porter in Britain’s colonial-era King’s African Rifles during World War I and as a cook for a British officer during World War II.

Obama’s father, Barack Obama Senior, was born in 1936, to Hussein’s second wife Akumu. Hussein’s third wife, Sarah Onyango Obama, is Obama’s oldest living relative, whom he calls “granny”.

Barack Senior came of age during Kenya’s independence and won a scholarship to study in Hawaii in 1959, where he met Obama’s mother Ann Dunham. The relationship did not last long and Obama, born in 1961, only got to know his estranged father when he was 10 years old and Barack Sr visited Hawaii for a month.

His father had returned to Kenya in 1964, just months after Kenya gained independence in 1963.

During his time in the United States, Barack Sr had also met and later married, then divorced, Ruth Baker. They had two sons together. Barack Sr had his last-born son, George, in Kenya with a woman called Jael Otieno just months before his death in a Nairobi car crash in 1982.

The president’s patrilineal line is disparate and convoluted, yet much of it remains anchored in Kenya.

The Kenyan Obamas, in Kenya

SARAH ONYANGO OBAMA
Step-grandmother
Born 1921

Third wife of Obama’s grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama and the president’s oldest living relative. Kenyans know her as ‘Mama Sarah’.

Lives in Kogelo, western Kenya.

SAID OBAMA
Half-uncle
Born 1965

Son of Sarah and Hussein. Runs a supply business and cybercafe in Kisumu and has become the de facto spokesman for the Kenyan Obamas.

Lives in Kisumu, western Kenya.

YUSUF OBAMA
Half-uncle
Born 1950s

Son of Sarah and Hussein. Little is known of his life and whereabouts.

Thought to live in Kisumu.

MALIK OBAMA
Half-brother
Born 1958

Son of Kezia Obama, Barack Sr’s first wife. Established the Barack H. Obama Foundation in honour of his father. Made a failed bid for political office in Kenya in 2013.

Lives in Kisumu.

AUMA OBAMA
Half-sister
Born 1960

Daughter of Kezia and Barack Sr. Runs a charity in Kenya and wrote a 2012 memoir called ‘And Then Life Happens’.

Lives in Nairobi.

ABO OBAMA
Half-brother
Born 1968

Son of Kezia and Barack Sr, manages a shop.

Lives in Nairobi.

BERNARD OBAMA
Half-brother
Born 1970

Son of Kezia and Barack Sr, runs a business.

Lives in Nairobi.

GEORGE OBAMA
Half-brother
Born 1982

Son of Jael Otieno and Barack Obama Sr, born just months before his father’s death. In 2010 he published an autobiography called ‘Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival’.

Lives in western Kenya.

The Kenyan Obamas, elsewhere

KEZIA OBAMA
Stepmother
Born c. 1940

Barack Sr’s first wife, mother of Malik and Auma, and later Abo and Bernard. She has lived in Britain for years and was granted British citizenship in 2011.

Lives in Britain.

JAEL OTIENO
Stepmother
Birthdate unknown

Barack Sr’s fourth wife and mother of George.

Lives in the US.

Others

RUTH NDESANDJO
Stepmother
Born c. 1940

Barack Sr’s third wife whom he met while studying at Harvard after separating from Obama’s mother.

Lives in Nairobi.

MARK NDESANDJO
Half-brother
Born 1966

Son of Ruth Ndesandjo and Barack Sr. A classical pianist who wrote a 2014 memoir called An Obama’s Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery Across Three Cultures.

Lives in China.

MAYA SOETORO-NG
Half-sister
Born 1970

Daughter of Obama’s mother Ann Dunham and his step-father Lolo Soetoro. Soetoro-Ng is a university teacher.

Lives in Hawaii.

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