April Fool’s Day article about Obama moving to Kenya fuels online misinformation

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Multiple social media posts are sharing claims that former US president Barack Obama is relocating to Kenya, his father’s homeland. As evidence, the posts are sharing a news article purporting Obama has been deployed as an envoy to the East African country. But the claim is false; the article originates from a Kenyan news site that published it on April Fool's Day, and has since labelled it as a joke.

On April 5, 2023, a tweet shared a snippet of an article from a website called Further Africa headlined “Former US President Obama to relocate to Kenya in June”.

The tweet, which has been shared more than 800 times, questioned why the former leader was allegedly suddenly relocating to Kenya, describing the move as “super sketch”.

“Why is Obama REALLY relocating to Kenya in June… this seems like one heck of a coincidence… fleeing the US?” the tweet reads.

A screenshot of the false tweet taken on April 13, 2023

Similar claims were repeated in this Facebook post.

On Instagram, this post alleged “Obama’s relocation” was linked to a corruption case involving Malaysia's sovereign wealth fund, known as 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB.

The Instagram post came after US actor Leonardo DiCaprio took a stand in a Washington court to testify (archived here) in the political corruption trial featuring a 90s hip-hop star and a disgraced Malaysian financier.

Pras Michel, a member of the US musical trio The Fugees, is facing charges over allegations of helping to secretly funnel money from Low Taek Jho -- the Malaysian businessman at the heart of the scandal -- to influence US politics.

The Fugees' Michel, prosecutors allege, secretly funnelled money from the businessman to then-president Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign via shell companies, hiding the donations' origins.

It is illegal for foreign nationals to donate to US political campaigns.

Another Instagram post also claimed Obama was moving to Kenya and shared a video from Fox News in which commentators suggested that the media was focusing on former president Donald Trump’s recent indictment as a distraction from the corruption case.

“There are no coincidences, right?” reads a caption on the Instagram video.

But the claim about Obama’s relocation to Kenya is false.

Originally an April Fools’ joke

On April 1, 2023, Kenyan newspaper The Standard published an article (archived here) as part of an April Fool’s Day joke claiming the 44th US president was deployed as an envoy to his father’s homeland.

In the write-up, the Standard cryptically gave readers a clue that the article was an April Fools’ Day joke by printing "April Fool’s Day” backwards in one of the paragraphs.

“But it is increasingly appearing that Obama could settle in Nyeri with locals noticing a grand, highly secured, ultramodern block, cryptically labelled 'Yad Sloof Lirpa' whose use the county government could not disclose...,” the paragraph reads.

On April 2, 2023, the paper added a disclaimer at the end of the article specifying that it was an April Fool’s Day joke.

A screenshot of the April Fool’s Day story on The Standard’s website, featuring the disclaimer at the bottom

This is not the first time an April Fool’s Day joke has been used out of context to fuel misinformation online. AFP Fact Check has debunked several including here and here.