The bar where Barack Obama’s father took his last beer before ramming his pick-up on a tree

Barrack Obama Sr and his Son Former US President Obama
  • Kaloleni public bar is where Obama Snr made friends, laughed and chatted with the mighty
  • That afternoon, Obama had arrived and sat at his favorite corner where he took his beer
  • He later rammed his pickup truck headlong into a eucalyptus tree and died instantly

Kaloleni public bar tucked away in a dusty nondescript corner off Kaloleni may not ring a bell to many.

The decaying pub is sandwiched between Masai and Kilimambogo road in a section of the city known for beer and nyama choma.

You have to plow through potholes, mud and sewer filled drainages that's have not worked in years.

But if the walls of the bar and its environs could speak they would regale you with tales about one individual who made this location his favourite watering hole: Barack Obama Sr.

It was here that Obama senior made friends, rubbed shoulders with work colleagues in the civil service, laughed with friends in politics and chatted up those in high places.

 It was a place that allowed him to surround himself with people he believed understood and cared about him.

But more importantly, it gave him a forum to connect with former US graduates who had gone to American as beneficiaries of the airlift or through their own initiative.

Those graduates were now working in the public sector and included the pub owner, Chrispo Otieno Anyim who worked as an economist at treasury alongside Obama sr.

"The two were very close friends and Obama sr spend a lot of time here interacting with my father," recalls George Anyim, 43, son of Chrispo and grandfather to Jason Anyim the original pub owner.

George recalls that for years Obama made regular and frequent stops to the Kaloleni bar to interact with friends. It was also sadly the last known location he was seen hanging out before he took his last ride home – literally.

At the pub, there were are also friends who watched him struggle with alcohol abuse and encouraged him when he was down or struggled with the demons of depression.

The place is a pale shadow of its former self, along with the entire neighborhood put up by Italian prisoners of war.

 The architecture, choice of stones, roofing of the houses around the pub and the Kaloleni social hall which became the epicentre of trade union activism was impressive in yesteryears.

Not anymore.

"The streets were always clean and the estate taken care off. Now it has been abandoned. The streets are dusty and the roads are not maintained " moans George Anyim.

He recalls with nostalgia growing up in an area that was famous for hosting future leaders who would curve out the nation's future political course.

"I remember the pub because people like Jaramogi Oginga, Argwings Kodhek and Tom Mboya patronized the pub."

Whispers about the pub and its drama are encapsulated in stories that have been passed on from generation to another.

George remembers one particular story passed on to him by his father. It was the day Mboya and Jaramogi almost came to blows after a fiery argument.

Argwings Kodhek, then a polished lawyer (the road in Hurlingham is named after him following a car accident on the same road that led to his demise), Jaramogi Oginga and Tom Mboya were having a drink.

According to George Anyim, he recalls his father telling him that Argwings told Mboya to go abroad and study if he wanted to improve himself and "become more polished".

"Mboya, so the story goes, took it personally and sought Jaramogi's intervention because Argwings was talking ill of him.

 Jaramogi instead told Mboya that Argwings was stating the obvious, a comment that sent Mboya into a fit of anger.

The two almost came to blows and Mboya left the pub in a huff and thereafter shifted his political base to Ziwani," George recalls.

It was not the only drama in the pub. Years earlier, George's grandfather Jason Anyim had befriended Mboya who frequented the pub and wanted him to facilitate a scholarship for his son (Chrispos) to study in the US under the airlift program.

Mboya dismissed his request because he felt that Anyim was aligned to Jaramogi. " He told my grandfather to ask Jaramogi for a scholarship in Russia and that he could not help him.

My grandfather was furious and insisted that he wanted his son to study in the US. To prove Mboya wrong, he raised his own money and put my father on a plane and sent him to study at a University in Alaska," Anyim recalls.

It was a strange twist of fate that inspired by Mboya's airlift project. What's more, it would somehow offer an opportunity to a future pub patron and pub owner, both ironically not direct beneficiaries of the airlift together.

 It was also the US experience that would lead one of them to father a future President of the US. Sound improbable? It's mind boggling in hindsight.

Before moving to the Kaloleni pub, the bar was located at the back of the famous Kaloleni social hall which had two doors.

 "There was a door named House of Commons where regular people like Obama senior fitted here before making his transition in the civil service.

The second door to the same pub was named House of Lords. It was here that famous and future politicians where known to visit.

The list read like who is who in Kenya politics from Jomo Kenyatta, Argwings Kodhek, Jaramogi Odinga to Tom Mboya.

It was outside the hall that the iconic image of Mboya and Mwai Kibaki locked in a hug in mid-air and Kenyatta cheering and waving his flywhisk in the background after Kanu won the May 1963 elections was captured.

The pub in its heydays had rules that drew a dichotomy between the two "houses". For example, if an intruder "accidentally" found his way into the House of Lords, the punishment was a strong reprimand and in extreme cases a few slaps and a kick behind the back executed by mean looking security men who manned the place.

The sun was shining on a hot afternoon in November 1982. It was four months after an attempted coup by Kenya Air force men that had forced President Daniel arap Moi to resort to strict measures to restore law and order.

That afternoon Obama had arrived and sat at his favorite corner where he took his favorite beer. Later after a conversation with friends, he had hopped into his pick-up and drove himself back to his Woodley estate.

He probably drove out past the city stadium on Jogoo road and into upper hill area possibly avoiding the city center.

Something went terribly wrong just before he could to get to the gate to his house and, according to Sally H. Jacobs in her book – The Other Barack – " he rammed his white pickup truck headlong into the high stump of a eucalyptus tree at the side of the road and died instantly. He was forty six."

It has remained a matter of speculation as to his state of mind as Obama Sr took his last ride home.


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