The Obama era’s not that great for Kenya

The Boston Globe reported this week that the judge in the immigration case of Zeituni Onyango — best known as President Barack Obama’s “Auntie Zeituni” — had granted her asylum even though she was in the United States illegally because the publicity around the case had “exposed her to heightened threats of persecution in her ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
565553_100819_kenya2.jpg
565553_100819_kenya2.jpg

The Boston Globe reported this week that the judge in the immigration case of Zeituni Onyango -- best known as President Barack Obama's "Auntie Zeituni" -- had granted her asylum even though she was in the United States illegally because the publicity around the case had "exposed her to heightened threats of persecution in her native Kenya." The Kenyan government, needless to say, isn't happy about the insinuation:

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo described the claims as “ridiculous and an insult to Kenyans”.

The Boston Globe reported this week that the judge in the immigration case of Zeituni Onyango — best known as President Barack Obama’s “Auntie Zeituni” — had granted her asylum even though she was in the United States illegally because the publicity around the case had “exposed her to heightened threats of persecution in her native Kenya.” The Kenyan government, needless to say, isn’t happy about the insinuation:

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo described the claims as “ridiculous and an insult to Kenyans”.

Zeituni convinced a US judge three months ago that she feared “persecution by some members of the Kenyan government” and was allowed to stay in the US although she had been classified as an illegal immigrant after her visa expired.

Said Mr Kilonzo: “The insinuation about Kenya’s inability to protect Ms Obama is outrageous, misplaced and an insult to the Kenyan state.

“President Obama’s grandmother is here and she is treated like a royalty. It is unfortunate because Kenya enjoys cordial relations with the United States.”

It has to be said that despite the initial excitement, Obama’s presidency hasn’t been all that great for Kenya’s image so far. He has yet to visit the country as president. Instead they had to settle for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who took the opporutnity to publicly lambast the government’s corruption. Kenyan leaders have also been smeared by the anti-Obama conspiracy theorists who, at least going by today’s news, seem to be gaining ground. 

Now, in a highly-publicized court ruling, a U.S. judge has implied that the president’s family members aren’t safe in their home country. Perhaps having your country’s favorite son in the White House isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  

Hat tip: Ben Smith

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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