The global political landscape has seen the rise of leaders with diverse backgrounds and unique heritage. Some of these leaders, who hold influential positions in other countries, carry with them the legacy of Kenyan heritage.
From Barrack Obama, who served as the 44th President of the United States, to Rishi Sunak, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, these leaders have shaped their political careers and influenced their leadership on the international stage.
Kenyans.co.ke takes a look at foreign leaders who possess Kenyan roots.
Francia Elena Márquez
Colombian Vice President Francia Elena Márquez Mina (Left) and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua (Right) when they met at his office in Nairobi on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.
During the Africa Climate Summit held at KICC, Nairobi, President William Ruto revealed that the Colombian Vice President was of Kenyan origin, with her roots traced to Meru County.
Ruto said that his government had played a key role in helping Mina trace her roots, especially after her visit to Kenya. He noted that the VP had adopted the name ‘Nyawira’, which is used to depict a hardworking person in the Kikuyu community.
“When she came to Kenya, we were able to trace her origin to a place called Meru,” the President stated on September 5, 2023.
Rishi Sunak made history on October 24, 2022, after he became the first UK prime minister and leader of the Conservative party.
Sunak is the son of a General Practitioner father and a pharmacist mother who were born in Kenya and Tanzania respectively.
His family migrated to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, where Sunak studied.
He attended Winchester College – an all-boys public boarding school and later Lincoln College in Oxford. Sunak also secured First Class honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, after which he joined Stanford University and obtained an MBA.
The UK PM joined the political scene in 2015, where he won the Yorkshire parliamentary race in 2015 under the Conservative Party.
Sunak was re-elected as MP in the 2017 General Election. In 2019, he backed Boris Johnson in his quest to become Conservative Party leader and subsequent Prime Minister. Sunak has also served as Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Finance Minister.
United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman delivers at speech in Westminster, London on July 18, 2023.
A month before Sunak became the UK’s Prime Minister, the position was held by Liz Truss, who resigned after seven weeks.
During that time, she appointed Suella Braverman as the UK’s Home Secretary, assuming office on September 6, 2022.
Braverman is the daughter of née Mootien-Pillay and Christie Fernandes, who migrated to Britain from Mauritius and Kenya respectively.
Born and raised in Wembley, London, Braverman has in the past recalled how her father fled Kenya after independence because of political tension.
“On a cold February morning in 1968, a young man, not yet 21, stepped off a plane at Heathrow airport, nervously folding away his one-way ticket from Kenya. He had no family, no friends and was clutching only his most valuable possession, his British passport. His homeland was in political turmoil,” she previously stated.
Braverman holds one of the government’s most senior and influential positions, as she is responsible for national security, policing and immigration policies in the UK.
Former United States President Barrack Obama addresses a gathering on March 17, 2023.
Undoubtedly, one of the most globally recognized leaders with Kenyan roots is Barack Obama. Born to a Kenyan father, Barack Obama Senior, his heritage is traced to Kogelo, a village in Siaya County.
Obama’s father left the US when he was two years old and returned after eight years, only staying for a month before flying back to Kenya.
Obama Senior, however, died in a crash months before his son had prepared to travel to Kenya to spend time with him.
Obama has in the past revealed how his complicated relationship with his father had a significant impact on his growth and development as a man.
“I think part of it was kind of early on feeling as if, ‘Man, I’ve got to live up to this. I’ve got to prove this’. Maybe the reason he left is because he didn’t think it was worth staying for me and no– I will show him that you know, he made a mistake not hanging around because I was worth investing in,” he stated during a 2021 podcast hosted by US musician Bruce Springsteen.
Over the years, Obama has gained national prominence, from his entry into politics in 1996, when he was elected as Illinois Senator, to his historic election victory in 2008 as the US President and subsequent re-election in 2012.