Posted on December 22, 2008

Kenya: Govt Gags Obama Family

Nairobi Star, December 11, 2008

The government has blocked Kenyan members of President-elect Barack Obama’s extended family from talking to the media.

Family members will have to ask permission from government before issuing making any statement concerning Obama.

The government will also vet all those seeking information about the family.

“We are doing this because we want to ensure better flow of information.

“The government has decided that you should inform its officers who will be based here if you want to address the media,” Athman Said, an Under-Secretary in the Ministry of Heritage, told the Obama family in Kogelo yesterday.

A proposed Obama Cultural Home comprising of a museum, a gallery, a library and a leadership centre will be put up in Kogelo, Said told the family. A cultural officer, Dorcas Obege, will be assigned to Kogelo to vet visitors and others seeking information about the family.

Said, who was leading a delegation from the Department of Culture, said the government had set aside Sh30 million to upgrade the proposed Obama cultural home.

Athman said his department was liaising with the United States government to have both published and un-published materials by President-elect Obama on display at the proposed library. The government was also planning to produce a video of Mama Sarah Obama, the President elect’s step-grandmother, telling the history of the Obama family.

The government has graded all the roads leading to Kogelo and set up a police station within the home to protect the Obama family after there was an attempted robbery.

Kenya Power and Lighting Company has also connected power to what used to be a sleepy village. The value of land has doubled in the last few months and several investors are understood to be planning to build hotels in the area to provide for the many tourists who are expected to visit Kogelo on what will be known as the Presidential Heritage Tourism Circuit.

Heritage minister William Ole Ntimama confirmed that the government had decided to make Obama’s fathers home in Kogelo , Siaya district into a national heritage site.

“This is a great opportunity to open up the western tourism circuit and we have asked Treasury to find us some money so that we can roll out a number of projects that will make this a truly memorable cultural site,” said Ntimama.

He however expressed surprise at the veto on the family talking to the media. “I am not aware of that ban because my officers have not told me about it. It will be surprising if they have done that because it is not right. The Obama family should be allowed to say whatever they want to without any bureaucracy,” said Ntimama.

The location of the proposed heritage centre has caused a row in the family with some Obama relatives from Kendu Bay insisting it should be built at Kanyadhiang which was Obama Senior’s ancestral home before the family moved to Kogelo.

The family made the claims last week to Gender and Culture Minister Esther Mirugi who unveiled a signpost showing where the museum will be built in Kogelo.