Onyango Obama (1895-1979)

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Onyango Obama was born 1895 to Obama (b. Kendu Bay) (bef1880-) and died 1979 in Alego, Kenya of unspecified causes. He married Akumu Nyanjoga (1918-2006) .


Offspring of Onyango Obama and Akumu Nyanjoga (1918-2006)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Sarah Obama (1933)
Auma Obama (c1934-)
Barack Obama Sr. (1936-1982) 18 June 1936 Nyangoma-Kogelo, Siaya District, Nyanza Province, Kenya 24 November 1982 Nairobi, Kenya Kezia Aoko (c1941)
Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-1995)
Ruth Ndesandjo
Barack Obama's paternal grandfather (c. 1895–1979);[1]. (One source gives 1870–1975 as his dates of birth and death, possibly based on his tombstone in his home village.[2]. However, in 1988 Barack Obama found a British document based on a 1928 ordinance showing his grandfather as 35 years old. The date of the document must have been around 1930, which means that his grandfather had indeed been born around 1895.[3]) Onyango was the fifth son of his mother, Nyaoke, who was the first of the five wives of his father, Obama.[4] Barack Obama relates how his step grandmother Granny Sarah (Sarah Onyango Obama) describes his grandfather: "Even from the time that he was a boy, your grandfather Onyango was strange. It is said of him that he had ants up his anus, because he could not sit still."[5] As a young man, he learned to speak, read and write in English.[6]
Onyango worked as a mission cook and as a local herbalist.[5] He joined the King's African Rifles[7] during World War I.
In 1949, Onyango spent at least 6 months in Kamiti Prison. He was probably tried in a magistrates’ court on charges of political sedition or membership of a banned organisation, but the records do not survive because all such documentation was routinely destroyed in British colonies after six years. He was violently tortured to extract information about the growing insurgency.[8] In his memoir, President Obama described his grandfather's shocking physical state: "When he returned to Alego he was very thin and dirty. He had difficulty walking, and his head was full of lice." For some time, he was too traumatized to speak about his experiences. His wife told his grandson: "From that day on, I saw that he was now an old man."[6] Onyango was permanently scarred, remaining in pain and requiring assistance moving until his death. Although previously working very closely with British colonists, his torture left Onyango bitterly anti-British. During a Sky News interview in 2009, Barack Obama was asked if this negatively affected his view of the British personally and he replied that it did not. "I love the Brits and I think I have shown that affection every time I have visited there. The notion that I would somehow judge countries based on what happened 100 years ago would not make much sense."[9]
Onyango is sometimes referred to as Mzee Hussein Onyango Obama. The word mzee is a Kenyan honorific meaning "old man" or "elder."
According to his third wife, Sarah, he originally converted to Catholicism, but took the name Hussein when he later converted to Islam; she said he passed the name, not the religion, on to his children.[10] Luos are given names related the circumstances of their birth, and Onyango means born in the early morning.[11]

Author Leo Odera Omolo reports on his blog AfricanPress the following account of Onyango:

Information which was availed to this writer revealed that the Obamas ancestors had settled in Kanyadhiang’ in the 19th Century. Nobody knows whence they had migrated before settling at Kanyadhiang’. And the late Obama Snr is the fourth generation within the Obamas family tree line said to have lived at Kanyadhiang’
The first elders to settle at Kanyadhiang’ were two brothers Opiyo and Nyagwala. The time of their arrival in the village is considered to be around 1886. Opiyo is said tobe the father of Obama {1} who became the father of Husseing Onyango Obama, and it was Hussein Onyango a former British Colonial cooke who father the late Barrack Obama Snr in 1936.
The first descendant of the Obama who is believed to have moved out of Kanyadhiang’ and traveled back to Alego Kogelo in the late 1930s was one called Ndalo. Hussein Onyango Obama remained in Kanyadhiang with his family until the lady luck struck the family.
Two incidents are believed to have occurred. First: Hussein Onyango Obama was divorced by his first wife Akumu daughter of Njoga from the neighbouring Karabondi village within the same locality. Akumu left him with three children: Barrack Obama Snr, and two daughters and got married to another Luo sub-clan on the ground of excessive cruelty on the part of Hussein, who had just returned after serving the British colonial masters as a cook in the coastal port town of Mombasa and the neighboring Zanzibar Island where he had converted himself to Islam. As the two (Hussein and Akumu) parted company, Hussein got married to the [now] 87 year old Sarah, who is the step grand mother of the US president elect and in whose homestead, the late Barrack Obama Snr remains is buried.
Between 1936 and 1940 Hussein Obama was the captain or manager of kanyadhiang’ Football Team, which was too good in local football derby.. It happened when the late Mzee Paul Mboya was then the colonial chief of the entire Karachuonyo Location. The Kanyadhiang’ team was involved in a local football tournament. The team headed by Hussein Obama beat another team from neighbouring, but dominant Kogweno sub-clan in the final match, Kogweno was the sub-clan of the colonial chief Mboya, who ruled the area with an iron fist, and was the darling of the British colonialists.
The chief defiantly refused to hand over the trophy after his clan’s team had been beaten by a margin of 4-1 by the Kanyadhiang’ team which was captained by the late Hussein Onyango Obama. The chief was known to be so authoritative and a dictator . Nobody questioned his rulings. But the late Hussein Onyango Obama, the father of Barack Obama Snr, forced his way to the chief’s house and forcefully seized the trophy, which he handed to house victorious team, to the chagrin of the Chief.
In retaliation, the Chief ordered some youths to invade the late Hussein Onyango Obama ultra modern house, which was built of Makuti roof, the only one of its kind in the are at the time.. The Chief’s reasoning was that Obama was an immigrant and not the indigenous man of the locality, but an immigrant settler in the area common called in Dho-Luo language {Jodak}.or sojourners.
The invasion of his beautiful house angered the late Hussein Onyango Obama who decided to move out of Kanyadhiang with his entire family and followed his cousin Ndolo to Alego Kogelo, where he settled and where his son the late Barrack Obama Snr and his other siblings grew up. (source: see citation below)

Sources and notes

‡ General


  Phlox, Robin Patterson


  1. ^ Dreams from My Father, p. 376
  2. ^ Kenya: Special Report: Sleepy Little Village Where Obama Traces His Own Roots (Page 2 of 2)
  3. ^ Dreams from My Father, pp. 425-426.
  4. ^ Dreams from My Father, p. 396.
  5. ^ a b Dreams from My Father, p. 397.
  6. ^ a b Dreams from My Father, p. 400.
  7. ^ Leicht, Linda (June 16, 2009), "Widening horizons", Springfield News-Leader,, retrieved June 16, 2009 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Obama's Praise For 'Extraordinary' Britain, Sky News, July 12, 2009, 
  10. ^ Obama's grandma slams 'untruths', March 5, 2008,  See also this correction.
  11. ^ "Appendix:Luo surnames", Wikitionary,, retrieved June 28, 2009 

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