Barack Obama and his step-grandmother Sarah Hussein Obama
Although no other evidence has surfaced placing Barack Obama’s mother in Kenya at the time of the president’s birth, a taped telephone conversation in which his Kenyan step-grandmother purportedly claims he was born in the coastal city of Mombasa has become an Internet hit since its submission as evidence in a lawsuit challenging the president’s eligibility.
Philip J. Berg, a former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general, included a transcript of the tape and sworn affidavits in a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court after lower courts dismissed as frivolous his Aug. 21, 2008, complaint alleging Obama was born in Mombasa.
The Oct. 16, 2008, telephone interview was conducted by American Christian minister Ron McRae, who describes himself in his affidavit as an overseer of the Anabaptist Churches in North America and a “Presiding Elder on the African Presbytery.”
McRae, who called from Detroit, says Sarah Obama was in a public setting with several hundred people listening to the telephone call on a speakerphone. The interpreter was Vitalis Akech Ogombe, the community chairman of Sarah Obama’s village of Nyang’oma Kogelo in Western Kenya, 30 miles west of the Lake Victoria-city of Kisumu.
“In the ensuing public conversation, I asked Ms. Obama specifically, ‘Were you present when your grandson was born in Kenya?’” McRae testified in his sworn statement. “This was asked to her in translation twice, and both times she replied, “Yes! Yes she was! She was present when Obama was born.”
Critics point out many reasons to be skeptical of the claim, including the possibility something was lost in the translation between an American minister who presupposed Obama was born in Kenya and an elderly African woman who reportedly knows no English. Amid cross-talk in a combination of English, Swahili and the local Luo tribal dialect, could she have understood McRae simply to be asking where she was when Barack Obama Jr. was born?
Moreover, the critics argue, her interpreter immediately clarified that her famous grandson was born in Hawaii, not Kenya.
Many versions of the tape posted by bloggers who contend it is evidence Obama was born in Kenya are cut off immediately after the point where the grandmother apparently affirms her presence at the birth. The truncated versions leave out the section in which the interpreter insists she actually meant the birth took place in the U.S.
In addition, a March 27, 2007, story by Tim Jones of the Tribune News Service recounts how Sarah Obama received a letter from Barack Obama Sr. telling of his plan to marry Stanley Ann Dunham. Sarah Hussein’s husband, Hussein Onyango Obama, was said to be angered by the news. Six months later, Jones reported, the Kenyan family received a letter announcing the Aug. 4, 1961, birth. The Tribune reporter noted an interview with Sarah Obama in which she said she was “so happy to have a grandchild in the U.S.”
Aside from the inference that the grandmother first learned of the birth through a letter, the Kenyan patriarch’s anger over the marriage makes it even more unlikely Ann Dunham would have traveled to Kenya during her pregnancy.
Nevertheless, two members of Sarah Hussein Obama’s Luo tribe who are fluent in the local Luo dialect, Swahlili and English told WND that after carefully listening to the tape they believe she declared Barack Obama Jr. was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and that she was present at the birth.
Tale of the tape
Sarah Hussein Obama, who is not a blood relative of the president, is the third wife of Obama’s paternal grandfather. According to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who visited her village during the presidential campaign, the grandmother is illiterate and doesn’t know when she was born. Several news reports say she was born in 1922.
The controversy over the tape centers on the interpreter, who at the end interjects repeatedly that the grandmother said Obama was born in Hawaii.
One of the WND sources who listened to the tape knows Sarah Obama and has met with her in her home village. The other holds a respected position in the Kenyan government.
The source who knows the grandmother declared: “I have keenly and attentively listened to the tape over and over again, and I can confirm from Sarah’s own confession that Barack Obama was born in Kenya in her presence.”
The source said that while Sarah Obama’ voice is hard to hear on the recording, “she admits of actually having been there at his birth.”
He said that while the people in the room with Sarah Obama “tried as much as they [could] to change the tone of the whole story … to me it seems someone is coaching her from the background and seemingly trying to guide her on what to say.”
The Kenyan government source agreed.
“I have listened to the tape,” he said. “The preacher asked whether Barack Obama was born in Mombasa, and the translator asked the same. When she said Mombasa, it was like a surprise, and those there thought she could not have meant to say Mombasa.”
The source said that at that point “they began insisting Hawaii was where Barack Obama was born.”
Sarah Obama can be heard uttering “Mombasa” in response to McRae’s question about where Obama was born.
The audio tape of the interview can be heard here:
At this point a confused discussion erupts in the background in Kogelo.
McRae explained the disruption as follows:
Though, some few younger relatives, including Mr. Ogombe, have obviously been versed to counter such facts with the purported information from the American news media that Obama was born in Hawaii, Ms. Sarah Hussein Obama was very adamant that her grandson, Senator Barack Huseein Obama, was born in Kenya, and that she was present and witnessed his birth in Kenya, not the United States.
When Mr. Ogombe attempted to counter Sarah Obama’s clear responses to the question, verifying the birth of Senator Obama in Kenya, I asked Mr. Ogombe, how she could be present at Barack Obama’s birth if the Senator was born in Hawaii, but Ogombe would not answer the question, instead he repeatedly tried to insert that, “No, No, No. He was born in the United States!
But during the conversation, Ms. Sarah Hussein Obama never changed her reply that she was indeed present when Senator Barack Obama was born in Kenya,” McRae concluded.
A second affidavit was sworn by Kenyan Anabaptist minister Rev. Kweli Shuhubia, a pseudonym chosen to protect his safety.
Shuhubia, a native evangelist and translator for the Anabaptist churches in Kenya, was present in Kogelo during the taped telephone conversation.
Shuhubia’s recollection of the conversation agrees with McRae’s and the interpretation of the interview by WND’s sources in Kenya.
Bishop McRae asked Ms. Obama specifically, “Were you present when your grandson Barack Obama was born in Kenya?” This was asked to here in translation twice, and both times she specifically replied, “Yes.”
It appeared Ms. Obama’s relatives and her grandson, handling the translation, had obviously been versed to counter such facts with the purported information from the American news media that Obama was born in Hawaii. Despite this, Ms. Sarah Hussein Obama was very adamant that her grandson, Senator Barack Hussein Obama, was born in Kenya, and that she was present and witnessed his birth in Kenya, not the United States.
When Ms. Obama’s grandson attempted to counter his grandmother’s clear responses to the question, verifying the birth of Senator Obama in Kenya, Bishop McRae asked her grandson, how she could be present at Barack Obama’s birth if the Senator was born in Hawaii, but the grandson would not answer the question, instead he repeatedly tried to insert that, “No, No, No. He was born in the United States!”
Shuhubia also testified in his affidavit that Sarah Obama “never changed her reply” that she was present in person when Senator Obama was born in Kenya.
He further testified that he traveled to Mombasa, Kenya, where he interviewed personnel at Coast Provincial Hospital
“I then had meetings with the Provincial Civil Registrar,” he swore. “I learned there were records of Ann Dunham giving birth to Barack Hussein Obama, III, in Mombasa, Kenya, on Aug. 4, 1961.
“I spoke directly with an Official, the Principal Registrar, who openly confirmed the birthing records of Senator Barack H. Obama Jr. and his mother were present, however the file on Barack H. Obama Jr.’s birth in Kenya is top secret,” he stated.
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