Barack Obama’s step-grandmother in Kenya, Sarah Oyango Obama, has a 2005 poster calendar on the wall of her home that proclaims “The Kenyan Wonder-Boy in the U.S.: Senator Barrack Obama,” according to a British documentary film.
Mentions of the calendar on the Web date back to 2008, but the documentary film provides an exceptionally clear image of the wall poster.
Born in Mombasa?
In the documentary, “Obama’s Kenyan Roots,” Sarah mentions, according to a translation, it was a “happy occasion” for her to “meet her grandson” when Obama came to Kenya for a visit in 1987.
Much has been made, nevertheless, of a taped transatlantic telephone conversation between a minister in the U.S. and Sarah in 2009 in which the grandmother is purported to have said Barack Obama Jr. was born in Mombasa, Kenya, and she was present at the birth.
Philip J. Berg, the former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general who was among the first to pursue eligibility claims against Obama in the courts, 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 complaint filed on Aug. 21, 2008, alleging that Obama was born in Mombasa.
American Christian minister Ron McRae, who described himself in his affidavit as an overseer of the Anabaptist Churches in North America and a “Presiding Elder on the African Presbytery,” conducted the telephone interview with Sarah.
McCrae, who called from Detroit, said Sara 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 Kyang’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 pointed 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 dialogue, 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.
See the clip of the Journeyman Pictures documentary:
Many versions of the tape posted on the Internet 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 Hawaii.
In addition, a March 27, 2007, story by Tim Jones published in the Chicago Tribune recounted how Sarah Obama received a letter from Barack Obama Sr. telling of his plan to marry Stanley Ann Dunham.
Sarah Obama’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 that Barack Obama Jr. had been born on Aug. 4, 1961.
The Tribune reporter noted an interview with Sarah Obama in which she said she was “so happy to have a grandchild in the United States.”
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.
Sarah 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 2008 presidential campaign, the grandmother is illiterate and does not know when she was born. Several news reports say she was born in 1922.
The controversy over the tape centers on the interpreter present in Kenya during the interview. At the end of the tape, the interpreter can be clearly heard interjecting repeatedly that the grandmother said Obama was born in Hawaii.
However, two members of Sarah Obama’s Luo tribe who are fluent in the local Luo dialect, Swahili 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.
One of Kenyans who listened to the tape for WND has known Sarah Obama personally over many years. He has met with her repeatedly in her home village. The other Kenyan who listened to the tape for WND holds a respected position in the Kenyan government.
The WND source who knows Sara reported: “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.”
He continued: “She was asked of his actual birthplace, and she affirmed she was actually there, present in person 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.”
“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 questions about where Obama was born.
At the time, Alex Koppelman, the senior editor on Salon.com’s political “War Room” blog jumped into the fray to contend, “No, Obama’s grandmother didn’t say he was born in Kenya.”
In a column that attacked former CNN host Lou Dobbs and radio talk show host G. Gordon Liddy, Koppelman characterized Sarah Obama’s statement that Obama was born in Mombasa as “a mistake, a confusion in translation” that the family in Kenya attempted to correct, multiple times.
Dismissing the story a just another “birther myth,” Koppelman explained that “people who believe in a conspiracy theory simply hear what they want to hear.”