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Uncanny link between Kenya and US politics

Irene Githinji and Agencies @gitshee

It’s arguably the most confounding electoral system. And with such strange semantics such as caucuses, primaries, electoral colleges, swing counties, who can blame the rest of the world for getting awfully confused with the US elections.

As if that’s not enough, they throw in a mid-erm poll in the mix. Yet not lost to many is how Kenya, the tiny East African country 15-flight-hours away has, somehow, got her tentacles tangled up within the super power’s moment of choice.

The epitome, of course, remains K’Ogalo’s son Barack Obama’s ascending to the presidency, twice.

Now, a Kenyatta has won a State seat as a woman who spent four years at the country’s Dadaab refugee camp broke a number of firsts. 

Malcolm Kenyatta was elected the Pennsylvania State Representative of the 181st District in Philadelphia while Ilhan Omar was elected to the Congress in Minnesota.

Malcolm’s grandfather changed his name from Donald Brooks Jackson to Muhammad Kenyatta in honour of the first president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta.

Ilhan Omar was elected to the Congress in Minnesota. Photo/COURTESY

Omar, a Democrat, is a Somali-American politician from Minnesota, who was first elected a Democratic-Farmer-Labour Party member in 2016.

She becomes the first of two Muslim women to be elected to the Congress and the first Somali-American in the Congress.

“We did this together. Thank you!” Omar posted on her Twitter handle moments after winning. “People will talk about the many firsts behind my name. The first woman of colour to serve Minnesota in Congress. The first woman to wear a hijab to be elected to Congress.

“The first refugee to be elected to Congress. One of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress…But I never ran to be a first. I ran because when I came to this country, I had heard of its promise,” she posted on her Facebook page.

She said America has many people who have never known the bounty of the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

“This is supposed to be a land where people have the tools they need to lead lives that are prosperous yet indigenous people, promised homes, are living in tents like refugees on their own land. Immigrants, promised a land of opportunity, are too often met with bigotry and hate.

Millennials, promised the American dream if they study hard enough, only to find that dream deferred by the harsh realities of our economy.”

She said she could not stand on the sidelines and watch those promises go unkempt. “My grandfather taught me that when you see injustice, you fight back. You do not give in to sorrow, you do not give in to sadness, you organize. You build with people,” she added.

Omar said she will fight for world-class education, tuition-free college and finally free students from the shackles of debt.

She also pledged to protect refugees and women’s rights in addition to fighting to use the sanity of science to protect the environment and fight for climate change.

Omar was the Democratic Farmer Labor nominee for US Representative in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, having won the primary on August 14, 2018.       

She was born in Mogadishu and raised in Baydhabo, Somalia and was the youngest of seven siblings.

Her father and grandfather raised her. Omar’s mother passed on while she was still a child.

In 1991, she and her family fled Somalia due to civil war and spent about four years in Daadab refugee camp in Kenya. They moved to the US as immigrants in 1995.

In 2006, she began her career as a professional nutrition educator at the University of Minnesota, a position she held until 2009.

In 2013, Omar managed Minnesota politician, Andrew Johnson’s campaign for Minneapolis City Council and after he was elected, she served as his Senior Policy Aide from 2013 to 2015.

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