The Man Who Dressed Obama
in Kenya Speaks Up
By Hassan M. Abukar
Oct 05, 2012
Muhumad Hassan Mumin, better known as “Dhukow,” has fond memories of Barack Obama. He was, after all, the man who dressed the then-US Senator from Illinois in traditional Somali attire in 2006.
Things have never been the same for either of the two men. One became the president of the most powerful nation in the world and the other is still living in his hometown of Wajir, in northeast Kenya, still a respected Elder.
Barack Obama and Elder Dhukow in Wajir (AP)
In an exclusive interview with Radio Wardheer on Monday, Dhukow, 83, said he never imagined that Obama would become the president of the United States.
Obama was a senator at the time who had interest in visiting in Dhukow’s part of the world, he said.
The picture of Obama in traditional Somali elder garb became sensational a year later when the senator from Illinois declared his intention to run for the office of the American presidency.
Speculation was rife that Obama, who is Christian, was a secret Muslim.
Dhukow also got his 15 minutes of fame when the world saw him dressing Obama.
“People still call me Obama,” said Dhukow, laughing.
But Barack Obama and people in his campaign were not laughing when the image went viral on the internet. Matt Drudge, the editor of The Drudge Report, first posted the picture but all indications were that the Hillary Clinton campaign, Obama’s main rival in the Democratic primaries, had something to do with airing it.
“I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it,
the campaign didn’t sanction it and we don’t know anything about it,” declared Clinton campaign manager Howard Wolfson.
Two Clinton Iowa volunteers, however, resigned after they were found responsible for forwarding a hoax e-mail falsely claiming that Obama was Muslim and bent on destroying America.
Obama in Wajir’s animal market (BBC 8/26/2006)
The leaders of the Obama campaign were livid and blamed the Clinton campaign for attempting to use “divisive “tactics to scare
voters away from Obama. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager then accused the Clinton camp of engaging in “the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we have seen from either party in the election.”
Obama himself attacked the Clinton campaign in an interview with WOAI radio in San Antonio, Texas. “Everybody knows that whether it is I, Senator Clinton, or Bill Clinton−that when you travel to other countries they ask you to try on traditional garb that you have been given as a gift,” said Obama.
Dhukow denied that he ever talked to the visiting Obama about religion.
“We did not have a private meeting,” asserted Dhukow.
It was Obama who had requested to meet with the Elders and local government officials, said Dhukow.
“He was our guest,” said Dhukow of Obama “and, according to our Somali tradition, we gave him a gift.”
Dhukow remembers that Obama was happy and laughing when he was dressing him. Obama even joked about the Somali sarong. The senator said that he had heard of a man wearing pants and a sarong on the top and the sarong fell off. “The man thought he was naked and people laughed at him,” Obama told the Elders.
Dhukow has seen all kinds of leaders coming to Wajir and being dressed in Somali garb. Daniel Arap Moi, former president of Kenya, and Kibaki, Kenya’s current president, also were dressed up. In addition, Dhukow was present when the daughter of the British queen and an Algerian leader visited Wajir and were in dressed traditional clothes.
Obama visited Wajir’s animal market and asked Dhukow and others about camels. He also asked questions about the American foreign aid to Wajir Hospital and how the funds were managed.
When asked if he had contacted Obama after he became president, Dhukow said no.
I thought that he would remember me and Wajir,” lamented Dhukow. There is a sense of disappointment in his voice. Nevertheless, the Elder wants Obama to win this November.
“People had told me that Obama would buy me a house or even university scholarships for my children,” Dhukow said with sadness in his voice.
So far, nothing has been forthcoming.
Hassan M. Abukar
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