A spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga yesterday poured scorn on attempts by right-wing activists to discredit US presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama through his Kenyan heritage.
Celeste and Loren Davis, American Christian missionaries active in Africa, have been circulating a chain mail claiming that Odinga and Obama are cousins, that Odinga is a socialist “trained in East Germany” and that Obama is a Muslim.
“These are bizarre accusations that lack credibility,” Odinga’s spokesman, Salim Lone, told Kenyan newspaper the Sunday Nation. “The allegations that the prime minister has socialist and pro-Muslim leanings were discussed and discredited in the last [Kenyan election] campaigns.”
Obama’s father, the late Barack Obama Sr, was from the village of Nyangoma-Kogelo in western Kenya. Many of Senator Obama’s relatives, including his grandmother and uncle, still live there.
Odinga and the Obama family are Luo, one of the largest tribes in Kenya, and Lone said that Barack Obama’s mother came from a clan to which Odinga’s mother also belonged.
However, the men are not cousins in the Western sense.
In Luo culture, members of the parents’ clan — which often number in the tens of thousands — are considered cousins of the child.
Odinga, of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement, was sworn in as prime minister last month after a compromise deal created a coalition cabinet with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki’s Party of National Unity.
The deal ended months of tension and violence that left more than 1,000 dead and 350,000 displaced after elections Odinga claimed Kibaki stole from him.
The missionaries claim that Obama and Odinga speak daily and that the US presidential hopeful will copy the Kenyan prime minister, “crying rigged election if he doesn’t win, and possibly cause a race war in America.”
Obama is in pole position to win the Democratic nomination ahead of Senator Hilary Clinton.
Previous attempts have been made to paint Obama as a Muslim, with pictures of him in traditional Somali robes being released on the Web and a claim made that he attended a radical Islamic school in Indonesia — an allegation that was largely discredited.