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Economy

Row breaks out over ‘Kenyan bias’ in Obama’s Brexit stance

In this file picture taken on October 1, 2013 London Mayor Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England. A bitter row has broken out in Britain over what some UK politicians have termed a racist remark concerning President Barack Obama and his Kenyan background. AFP PHOTO | FILE
In this file picture taken on October 1, 2013 London Mayor Boris Johnson addresses delegates at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, north-west England. A bitter row has broken out in Britain over what some UK politicians have termed a racist remark concerning President Barack Obama and his Kenyan background. AFP PHOTO | FILE 

A bitter row has broken out in Britain over what some UK politicians have termed a racist remark concerning President Barack Obama and his Kenyan background.

The row followed comments made by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson to Mr Obama during the US president's visit in the UK this week.

Mr Johnson suggested that Obama’s views regarding US government’s preference for Britain remaining part of the European Union was tainted by his Kenyan heritage.

He noted that Mr Obama had a bust of Winston Churchill removed from the Oval Office because he is “part-Kenyan” and has an “ancestral dislike” for Britain.

His views were echoed by far-right leader Nigel Farage, the head of the UK Independence party, who suggested that Mr Obama’s views could not be trusted because of his Kenyan background.

A dignified Mr Obama did not respond to the slurs but said he had always been a fan of Sir Winston Churchill.

'INTERESTING CHOICE'

The Guardian newspaper was sharp in its denouncement of Mr Johnson’s view noting “what an interesting choice of word that “ancestral” was.

“Not “post-colonial”, which would have located this supposed antipathy in the 20th century, but “ancestral” to be run alongside “half-Kenyan”,” the paper said.

“It was a reminder of the brilliant slap down Obama once issued to (US Republican candidate Donald) Trump, when the tycoon was demanding to see Obama’s birth certificate.

“From the podium at the 2011 White House correspondents’ dinner, Obama said he could go one better and show his birth video.

“He promptly played a clip from the Lion King, of Simba the newborn cub held aloft – as graceful a way of calling out a racist as one can imagine.”

This is not the first time that Mr Johnson, likely to be a front-runner for the Tory leadership campaign when David Cameron stands down towards the end of this Parliament, has made derogatory references towards Africans.

The Guardian also pointed out that Johnson once spoke of “piccaninnies” and wrote of African men with “watermelon smiles”.

In the Spectator in 2002, he declared of Africa: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”

The opposition Labour party’s shadow chancellor (Finance minister) John McDonnell called for Mr Johnson to withdraw his comment.

Mr McDonnel wrote on Twitter: "Mask slips again. Boris part-Kenyan Obama comment is yet another example of dog whistle racism from senior Tories."

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