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‘Birthers’ Latch Onto Forged Kenyan Birth Certificate

Last updated: July 31, 2020 | August 03, 2009 | Paolo Reyna
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On Sunday night, the online community of “birthers” erupted after Orly Taitz released a photo of a “Kenyan birth certificate” for Barack Obama. The “birther” movement quickly divided between the credulous — people who believed that the new certificate was genuine — and skeptics who believed that their movement was being taken for a ride.

This story needs a little bit of prelude. Last year, as the bloggers at ObamaConspiracy remember, Philip Berg included an obviously forged birth certificate with his lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee. (The certificate was Canadian and signed by “Dudley Do-Right.”) Foreign birth certificates, unlike, say, American passports, are prime targets for forgery — few people stateside know what the real ones look like, and the penalties for forging them are basically non-existent.

So here it is: the “certified copy of registration of birth” that Orly Taitz obtained and is submitting as evidence in her lawsuit on behalf of Alan Keyes. The most obvious problems:

  • It records Barack Obama Sr’s age as “26.” Obama Sr was born in 1936; his son was born in 1961.
  • Its publication date is February 17, 1964, but it purports be a document of the “Republic of Kenya.” Kenya did not become a Republic until December 12, 1964, a year after it won independence from Great Britain.
  • It’s signed by “registrar E.F. Lavender.” Earth Friendly Lavender is a kind of detergent, and government officials who use vanity initials on official documents are, to put it mildly, rare.
  • The kicker? The image is part of the extremely ill-informed conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Mombasa—conveniently, one of the more Muslim parts of the country.

This has always been a red flag for conspiracy theorists, so it deserves some explanation. Barack Obama Sr. was born and educated in Nyanza Province, in southwestern Kenya, on Lake Victoria. This is the area where Obama’s family lived and continues to live; Sarah Obama, the step-grandmother of the president, lives in Nyang’oma Kogelo, a small town in the province. But Mombasa is a city on the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles to the east. It didn’t even have an international airport until 1979. And the city wasn’t even part of Kenya when the future president was born. Mombasa was a part of Zanzibar until December 12, 1963, when it became part of the newly independent Kenya.

The new forgery? Why, it claims that the president was born in Coast General Hospital in Mombasa.

  • **As some FreeRepublic posters have pointed out, the document contains a number that’s either a humorous coincidence or a wink by the forger. It’s number 47,044. Barack Obama, 47 years old, is the 44th president of the United States.

So what’s the likeliest story here? One popular theory right now is that the document was faked to discredit the “birther” movement. That wouldn’t be surprising: another document that circulated over the weekend was a “certificate of birth” from “Kenya colony,” and its creator tipped his hand, telling readers that it was a “work of parody.”

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Paolo Reyna | Paolo is a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in International Studies with a Latin American emphasis. During the fall semester of 2012, he had the opportunity to study abroad in Peru, which piqued his interest in international growth. He learned about the disparities that impact indigenous peoples, got a taste of Peruvian culture, and improved his Spanish skills. Mitchel interned with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conducting research on food security in Latin America, after being inspired by his foreign experience. He wants to work in international development and for a government department, writing legislation. He loves playing intramural basketball and practicing for the Chicago marathon when he is not thinking about current events in Latin America.

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