Hussein Onyango never died (He’s being killed daily, though)
Hussein Onyango. Have you heard this name? It
is the name of a Kenyan. Onyango was not his last name. We will get to
that later. The man was imprisoned without trial for two years. He was
tortured. All this for resisting British imperialism.
Today Churchill is hailed for being resolute in the face of fascism.
He played a role, yes. Worthy of a cheer. Or two. It is certainly
understandable, also, why George W. Bush, during the time he was
President set up a ‘big growling bust’ of the man near his desk in the
White House. He too, after all, fancied himself as a crusader of similar
making, ‘making the world safe’ for what he believed was civilization.
What’s all this got to do with Onyango? Who was Oyango to Churchill?
He was a victim, yes, but not the only one. A victim of British
imperialism. Imperialism somehow seems too sanitized a term when it
comes to talking about the horrendous crimes against humanity
perpetrated by the British. Anyway, here are the relevant links: (a)
Onyango was tortured during Churchill’s watch, (b) Onyango had a
surname: Obama, and (c) Barack, Onyango’s grandson, returned Churchill’s
bust to Britain.
A child in the Swat Valley. AFP
Churchill’s heroics and his villainy has been discussed extensively
in a new biography/history, authored by Richard Toye, titled
‘Churchill’s Empire’. Too much to summarize here of course, but there
are interesting points that tell us how really confused and confusing
global politics is.
Not in Kenya
Churchill, we now know, as soon as he was out of his teens, went off
to best ‘barbarous peoples’ all over the world. He had no qualms about
eliminating those who were conveniently labelled as heathens because
their ‘strong aboriginal propensity to kill’ needed to be subdued. For
the sake of civilization, perhaps. The white man’s burden. These are his
words: ‘We proceeded systematically, village by village, and we
destroyed the houses, filled up the wells, blew down the towers, cut
down the shady trees, burned the crops and broke the reservoirs in
Where did all this happen, though? No, not in Kenya (that came
later). Does the name Swat ring a bell? Well, it is now a part of
Pakistan. A place whose inhabitants may or may not have heard about
Winston Churchill but are very unlikely to have Hussein Onyango. They
know, I have no doubt, about a man called Obama. Barack Obama.
A man who tossed back Churchill’s bust across the Atlantic but is
quite happy to do a Churchill (to the 100th power, may I add?) in the
Swat Valley. We are talking about civilians killed. The assault into
Buner, Lower Dir and the Swat Valley resulted in 1.45 million internally
displaced persons. It is said to be the greatest displacement of
civilians on the Indian subcontinent since the 1947 Partition.
When the Kurds rebelled against British rule in Iraq, Churchill is
reported to have said, “I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas
against uncivilized tribes,” observing that ‘it would spread a lively
Obama is different. He doesn’t say such things. He just returns
busts. Hussein Onyango fought Churchill. Hussein Onyango protested
British attempts to secure for settlers the most fertile lands in Kenya,
in which cause Churchill ordered ‘local kaffirs’ to be cleared out (read
‘killed’). Onyango’s people, some 15,000 of them were forced into
detention camps, dubbed ‘Britain’s Gulag’. Onyango never recovered from
His grandson might want the world to think he’s doing some justice to
his grandpa’s memory. I am not buying it. Obama is not in Kenya. He’s in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Doing a Churchill. He might as well drop
his last name and ask David Cameron to return the butcher-bust. That,
now, would be honourable indeed.