Obama: A Signal for Global Convergence?

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By Enos and Merab Kiremire

Global Obamania: Since America’s State of Illinois Senator Barack Hussein Obama declared his interest to run as a candidate for the world’s contemporary Super Power Presidency, a great deal has been written about this 46-year-old African-American academic, lawyer, politician, husband, father, born-again Christian with historical Islamic links.

His endorsement, on June 07, 2008, by America’s first serious female contender for the White House and key competitor, former First Lady Hillary Rhodham Clinton, marked a milestone in the history of the United States.

It followed close to one year of intense campaigns between the Democratic Party’s historical presidential candidates, one as the first-ever serious female presidential contender and the other as the first ever serious African-American presidential contender.

Obamania is so contagious that various segments of our societies, including families, are tearing each other into bits and pieces. They simply can’t wait to see Barack Hussein Obama in America’s plot 1 residence, presiding over the entire planet earth.

But so who is Obama Jr, where does he come from and what does he stand for? What is it that makes this seemingly humble, young man magnetize us all?

To gain a glimpse into Obama Jr’s life my wife Merab and I spent some time exploring some striking websites and reading his two biographies. This exercise did not only afford us the opportunity to get to know Obama Jr the international citizen, lawyer, academic, politician, husband, father and America’s possible president in just a few months from now, but it helped soothe my wife’s pain at Hillary Clinton’s bid to the White House loss. She had been so convinced that Clinton’s ascendancy to the world’s number one position would signal a totally new chapter in the world’s female population that she used to sit vigil nights just to see the outcomes of the Democratic primaries!

Obama’s presumptuous nomination win as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the 2008 presidential election a few weeks ago has brought with it a lot of excitement and anticipation, not only among the American electorate, but across the entire world, so much so that it has been nicknamed “Obamania”.

Obamania has captured the entire African continent, Europe, the near and far East and the Pacifics to such a degree that some manufacturing companies are naming their brands after him and some places and streets are quickly catching the crazy and adopting his name.

But so who is Barack Hussein Obama Junior? Where does he come from, what does he represent and what is so special about this young African-American firebrand whose presence has thrown such a magnetic fever across the width and breadth of our planet?

The Tom Mboya Legacy

According to the numerous websites and Barack Hussein Obama’s own two biographies, Obama’s origin traces its roots to one of Africa’s great visionaries and true Pan-Africanists, the late Tom Mboya (August 15, 1930 – July 5, 1969).

Tom Mboya was a charismatic, prominent and popular Kenyan politician who was, unfortunately, mysteriously assassinated in 1969 at a young age of 39.

Among his many achievements in his young political career was his renowned educational programme he initiated to identify brilliant Kenyan students and send them to the USA to further their education and specialize in much needed skills and knowledge for his newly independent nation.

Determined to succeed, Tom Mboya is known to have equally identified able and keen sponsors for his dream programme. They included key American politicians known for their commitment to end America’s traditional racial divide-line such as President FJ Kennedy, as well as some of America’s African-American anti-racial activists such as Harry Belafonte (singer), Sidney Poiter (actor), Jackie Robinson (basketballer) and a literacy advocate, Elizabeth Mooney Kirk.

Tom Mboya’s programme became so successful that its first airlift around 1959 took as many as 81 Kenyan students to the United States. They included Barack Hussein Obama Sr.

Senator Obama’s Extra-ordinarily Rich and Extensive African Heritage

Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was born in 1936 to a Kenyan Luo tribesman Hussein Onyango Obama and his wife Akuma/Akumu in Nyangoma-Kogelo, Siya District on the shores of Lake Victoria.

Grandfather Onyango Obama is believed to have been a converted Christian who later in his life, after his extensive travels as a World War I veteran reconverted to Islam.

Thus, Obama Sr’s background is rooted in the African traditions, complimented by a mixture of pre-independence Christianity and Islamic influences.

With such background, it is not surprising that within a period of less than 10 years, Hussein Onyango Obama’s son, Barack Hussein Obama, would be a multi-polygamist, traditionally married to his 16-year-old tribe sweetheart (Kezia) in 1957 at a tender age of 18; then to his American Caucasian student mate (Ann Dunham) in 1960, followed by yet another American Caucasian Ruth Nidesand somewhere in 1965, and lastly his fourth intended wife he left pregnant at the time of his death from a car accident in 1982.

It is remarkable that a man who at a young age of only 46 years met his death in complicated circumstances should be making a great influence as Barack Hussein Obama Sr is having on our world today.

His two American and two African marital partners bore him a wealth of a rainbow family of eight offspring comprising 3 Americans and 5 Africans (1 daughter and 7 sons) in addition to Senator’s Obama’s half sister from his own mother (Ann Dunham)’s second marriage to an Indonesian man, who today spreads across four of the World’s five continents of the Americas (USA), Europe (UK), Asia (China) and Africa (Kenya).

Lest we forget that the Luo tribe of Western Kenya stretches across the whole of east and northern Uganda as well as southern Sudan.

Consequently, it might mean that Senator Obama’s extended family members could well be spread that far afield. Unsurprisingly, in Kenya itself, Senator Obama already counts that country’s current Prime Minister Raila Odinga as his close cousin!

Senator Obama has a vast American/European Heritage too. Genealogical researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society have confirmed some remarkable family connections between Senator Obama with six US presidents referred to as distant cousins. They are George W. Bush, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S. Truman and James Madison. Other Obama world-famous cousins include Winston Churchill and former Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

The Michelle Obama Unique Lineage

While Senator Obama’s first generation African-American descent status is rooted in his American mother’s lineage, his marriage to Michelle Obama, herself a direct descendant of America’s historical brutal slavery affirms its complexity.

Born in Chicago during America’s civil rights era of the early and mid-1960s, like most African-American youths of her time, Michelle (LaVaughn Robinson) Obama became direct beneficiary of the fruits of that struggle.

After graduating from Whitney Young High School in 1981, she went to the prestigious Princeton University (ranked 38th and 17th in Nobel Laureates (30) ranking) where she graduated cum laude with a B. degree in sociology in 1985. She proceeded to the Harvard Law School where she graduated with J.D degree in 1988. Her marriage to Senator Obama in 1992 produced 2 daughters, Malia Ann (born 1998) and Natasha (born 2001) whose relatives, just like their father, now unite the north and the south, the east and the west – simply children of the world!

A well-educated and achieved family – And yet, the Obama dynasty has another striking feature to it too. It is not only characteristic of a high level of educational attainment with at least 5 of its members – Barack Hussein Obama Sr., Barack Hussein Obama Jr., Obama Sr’s third wife Ruth Nidesand, her (Ruth) first son Mark Obama and Michelle Obama – having attended three of America’s most outstanding and prestigious universities, namely Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, but they cover a whole lot of professions and careers that range from lawyers, accountants, nurses, teachers, sociologists to traders, academics, physicists and human rights activists.

Indeed Senator Obama’s educational attainment leaves none in doubt to the calibre of person he is having attended two of America’s most prestigious universities, namely Columbia which is not only ranked the world’s 15th but 1st for its 87 Nobel Laureates, and Harvard University, itself ranked No.4 worldwide and 3rd in the number of Nobel Laureates

from where, in 1991, he graduated with a Doctor of Laws degree (J. D.), Magna Cum Laude (equivalent to what some universities call a Doctor of Laws with Distinction).

Senator Obama’s Asiatic influence

After her divorce from Obama Sr, Ann married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian oil manager. In 1967, the newly wed couple moved to Jarkata, taking with them 6-year-old Obama Jr. Here, not only would young Obama be exposed to Roman Catholicism and the Bible, but together with his little step sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, they had the privilege of learning the Quran, the Terjemahan Baru as well as about the American civil rights movement including the roles played by the movement’s leaders as Martin Luther King Jr.

Senator Obama’s humble political beginnings can be traced to his community work in Chicago where he acted as an Associate Attorney. He dealt with many voting and discrimination cases. This made it easier for people to vote and furthermore, he helped improve the city of Chicago, Illinois.

In 1996, Obama stood for and was elected the Senator of Illinois. As a Senator, he helped families by making tax programmes and supported early childhood education. In 2005, he was elected to the US Senate and dedicated himself to addressing people-centre issues such as immigration reform, border controls, environmental issues, energy efficiency, and health programs.

In addition, he travelled extensively abroad trying to lobby national leaders on weapons and terrorism.

If Senator Obama wins the 2008 American presidential elections, he will be the first black president in America’s 5-century history!

Global Expectations

Just as the Obamania has taken the entire world by storm, the global expectations from Obama if elected as the first ever black man of dual African-American descent president of the United States of America (USA), will be numerous.

First and foremost, the war on terror, rather than diminishing is escalating. It will require new and innovative strategies. The approaches applied thus far seem to have gross limitations such that they are playing a major role in the current global economic recession.

The on-going third oil crisis has already brought immense hardships world-wide. America will be expected to improve its international image which has been badly dented by its approach on war on terror.

As the current greatest economic superpower on earth, America will be expected to do more in assisting the improvement in the quality of life not only in the US but also in the developing countries.

Both African-Americans, millions of whom still live in squalor in ghettos and slums among plenty, and full of a new type of hope, have been turning out to vote for the first time and will be expecting a drastic change in their quality of life.

And so will Africa which is clearly the world’s richest continent endowed with practically everything that is potentially wealth, but which is still enslaved by economic exploitation through unbalanced terms of trade – it can’t wait to see Obama Jr at the helm of American political power.

The world will also expect that the new American president will seriously try his level best to find a lasting solution to the problems in the Middle East including Israel on the one hand and the Arab nations on the other. The current US foreign policy on the Middle East has so far not produced tangible peaceful results.

More importantly, so are the women of America, Africa and Asia. Obama Jr has not minced his words about the importance of women in his life beginning with the gracious Kezia who not only raised his father, but his maternal grandmother who is solely responsible for his
education and subsequent successes; and the thousands upon thousands of women his own mother touched with her community work before she was afflicted by cancer; not to mention Michelle Obama and their two young daughters – clearly his pillar of inspiration, strength and power; as will the World’s Catholics, Born-Again Pentecostals and Muslims!

There is no doubt that if America elects Senator Barrack Hussein Obama, a son of a Kenyan Luo father, with a wife whose descen-dants were slaves, American democracy will have truly attained its full and unconditional maturity – a remarkable political revolution in the history of mankind!
More importantly, what could be more ideal than having one huge global family whose members can coexist harmoniously together!

Such is what this young man represents to the rest of our world today, as he himself keeps repeating again and again – change we would like to believe in! At last a global convergence sociologists have long debated seems to be coming to pass!

– Professor Enos M. R Kiremire is the Dean, Faculty of Science, University of Namibia.

– Mrs Merab Kamabamu is an MA student in So-
ciology.

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