Now that former U.S President Barack Obama is back in town, everyone is dying to have a piece of him. And while Obama’s schedule is not exactly catered for everybody, one person who is hopeful of a reunion is Mr Mohamed Hassan Mumin, a Somali peace elder in Wajir County.
Sheikh Mohamed Hassan Mumin alias Duko from Wajir Bor had the rare honor of dressing the then-senator in a traditional Somali outfit in 2006. This was during Obama’s visit to the remote town in North Eastern Kenya when he was the Illinois Senator.
Hassan Mumin, being a peace elder, dressed Obama in a white Somali turban and robe and a walking stick. And while the gesture was intended as a cultural blessing, it would later be used as political fodder by Obama’s opponents in the presidential race.
Obama was depicted as a Muslim and even linked to the Al-Qaeda by some papers.
In 2008, Reuters reported that Hillary Clinton, Obama’s then rival for the Democratic Party’s ticket, compared his surname to that of former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
However, the US news channel reported that Hassan, a retired paramount chief, broke his silence saying that the dress has no links with the Islamic religion. He explained that he has dressed the same attire to many dignitaries among them Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta in 1964 when he visited Wajir, retired President Daniel Arap Moi and former President Kibaki.
The Shiekh would later seek an apology from Hillary Clinton’s campaign team for discrediting “the best traditional Somali attire” only accorded to an exceptional guest who visits the community.
“Somali Muslims want Washington to apologise to us as a clan and the old man, retired Chief Sheikh — a senior elder who deserved great respect,” Reuters reported in 2008.
Clinton’s campaign would, however, later deny that it officially approved the picture’s release notwithstanding the resignation of voluntary staff in her camp.
Mumin, who was then the chairman of Al-Fatah peace group, is now seeking to meet Obama again, despite several failed efforts.
Speaking with the Nation, Mumin said he once went to the US ambassador’s office in Nairobi but his wishes were not granted. He also tried to meet him when Obama visited the country as US President.
On why he hopes to catch a moment with Obama this time around, the Sheikh is quoted as saying: “I blessed Mr Obama when he was a senator and he ended up ruling America for two terms. I now want to bless him to be the leader of peace in global hotspots such as Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Somalia.”
The 88-year-old peace elder is widely credited with ending the bloody inter-clan clashes between Degodia and Ogaden in Wajir in 1993.