Fact Check

Welcome to Kenya, Birthplace of Barack Obama

Photograph shows a 'Welcome to Kenya' sign identifying that country as the birthplace of Barack Obama?

Published Feb. 25, 2010


Claim:   Photograph shows a "Welcome to Kenya" sign identifying that country as the birthplace of Barack Obama.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2010]

Sign posted on the road just outside Nairobi, Kenya:


Origins:   The image displayed above is one of the more humorous riffs on the "birther" conspiracy that holds Barack Obama was born in Kenya (not Hawaii) and therefore does not qualify for natural-born citizen status in the U.S. (and hence is ineligible to hold the office of President). The photograph purportedly depicts a sign displayed somewhere near the Kenyan capital city of Nairobi which welcomes visitors (in both English and Arabic script) to that country by touting it as the birthplace of Barack Obama.

Some commentators were skeptical of this image for reasons such as the purported sign's not matching other similar "Welcome" signs displayed in the Republic of Kenya, like the following (which is differently colored and uses Roman alphabet block lettering throughout):

Other giveaways are that (as shown in the image immediately above), Kenya's national language, Swahili, is typically written using the Roman alphabet, not Arabic script, and that the Arabic text displayed on the purported sign is not the equivalent of the English phrases rendered in any language common to the area. (Readers who understand the non-English writing have told us that although it is malformed — the letters are disconnected and the words are spelled backwards — the word under "Kenya" is actually Arabic for "Hawaii," the message at the bottom of the sign says "Not the birthplace of Barack Obama," and the script under the "Welcome to" legend is the equivalent of "Paul is dead.")

Language issues aside, the image demonstrably is a fake; a digitally altered version of a sign welcoming visitors to a very different part of the world: the Omani territory of Wilayat Madha (along the border between Oman and the United Arab Emirates).

Last updated:   25 February 2010

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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