Obama’s “cousin” runs for Parliament in Kenya

SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images Nicholas Rajula is running for Kenyan Parliament, and he has a pretty novel campaign strategy: He claims to be U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s distant cousin. People in Kenya love Obama, whose father was from the African country. When Obama visited Kenya last year, throngs of singing and dancing Kenyans greeted him with a hero’s welcome. ...

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SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

Nicholas Rajula is running for Kenyan Parliament, and he has a pretty novel campaign strategy: He claims to be U.S. Senator Barack Obama's distant cousin.

People in Kenya love Obama, whose father was from the African country. When Obama visited Kenya last year, throngs of singing and dancing Kenyans greeted him with a hero's welcome. His Kenyan roots may be why Kenya is one of three countries that love the United States more than Americans themselves do: 87 percent of Kenyans have a favorable view of the United States, compared with 80 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center poll released earlier this year.

SIMON MAINA/AFP/Getty Images

Nicholas Rajula is running for Kenyan Parliament, and he has a pretty novel campaign strategy: He claims to be U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s distant cousin.

People in Kenya love Obama, whose father was from the African country. When Obama visited Kenya last year, throngs of singing and dancing Kenyans greeted him with a hero’s welcome. His Kenyan roots may be why Kenya is one of three countries that love the United States more than Americans themselves do: 87 percent of Kenyans have a favorable view of the United States, compared with 80 percent of Americans, according to a Pew Research Center poll released earlier this year.

Obama’s campaign denies that Rajula and Obama are related; Rajula and Obama’s father just happen to come from the same Kenyan village. To Rajula’s credit, though, Obama’s paternal grandmother says she considers herself a grandmother to Rajula, and Rajula is known for organizing part of Obama’s itinerary when he visited Kenya (although Obama’s campaign wouldn’t comment on this).

It’s uncertain whether Rajula’s campaign strategy will be successful. During one campaign stop, villagers got upset that Rajula wasn’t doling out the cash too freely, violating a time-honored custom of Kenya’s parliamentary campaigns (although he did quietly give money to village leaders later on). Echoing the language of his “cousin” from Illinois, Rajula explained that he aspires to “a new kind of politics.” Such rhetoric hasn’t been enough for Obama to keep up with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, and it probably won’t put Rajula over the top in Kenya, either.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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