The Anglo-American ’special relationship’, so beloved of politicians, seems to have been undermined recently.
The Anglo-American ‘special relationship’, so beloved of politicians, seems to have been undermined recently by a series of incidents, ranging from the trivial, being the leak from Downing Street that calls to the White House to arrange the G20 summit agenda went unreturned, to the more serious assertion that Barack Obama is hostile to Britain because of his family history.
Allegedly Barack Obama’s paternal grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, was detained in Kenya during the Mau-Mau uprising in 1952 and, having spent two years in custody, complained of maltreatment and even torture at the hands of his African guards who were encouraged by their white officers to mistreat their prisoners.
Hussein had been an army cook and was suspected of having played some role in the Kikuyu-dominated guerrilla movement that intimidated other tribes and later morphed into an independence movement headed by Jomo Kenyatta.
Much mythology surrounds Mau-Mau and Kenyatta, a charismatic leader who was trained in Moscow by the Comintern, as revealed by MI5’s analysis of the MASK traffic exchanged between the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Soviets.
When Kenyatta was arrested by the British he was defended by Denis Pritt QC, a well-known Communist barrister and a spy for the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence service.
In May 1960 Sir Frederick Corfield released an official report, the Historical Survey of the Origins and Growth of Mau Mau, which provided a detailed account of the background to the intelligence weaknesses that had allowed the movement to develop in the absence of a comprehensive security apparatus that reported to a single body that could distribute the information and coordinate the appropriate counter-measures.
There were plenty of allegations of abuse made by the detainees, some of whom had been implicated in the most bloodthirsty atrocities against other natives, but they were investigated rigorously.
The claims about Hussein Obama come from his widow Sarah, who says he was arrested in 1949, three years before the Mau Mau emergency which ended in 1960, was declared in October 1952.
Although often claimed as an independence group, Mau Mau was mainly tribal, and directed its attention to other tribes, such as the Luo, of whom Hussein was a member. Just thirty-two Europeans died at the hands of the guerrillas, while they accounted for thousands of other Africans.
The evidence of the new president’s hostility to the UK first became apparent when he had the Epstein bust of Winston Churchill, donated to the White House by Tony Blair immediately after the 9/11 attacks, returned to Nigel Sheinwald, the British ambassador in Washington, and replaced by Abraham Lincoln.
Of course, President Obama is entitled to choose whatever décor he likes for the Oval Office, but he is a shrewd enough politician to grasp the symbolism of such an act. Even if the snub was unintended, the failure to rebut the leak carried a similar message. And then we learn of a possible link to the Mau-Mau rebellion.
If Grandma Sarah is to be believed, and there are good reasons to doubt her version of events, the White House and Sheinwald should be building bridges as the special relationship, which dates back to 1940, is too important to be sabotaged by a distant memory of a Cold War proxy conflict in east Africa or a Jacob Epstein bronze.