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No, photos don’t show Kenya’s Odinga as a child, refusing to give bouquet to UK queen

A screenshot circulating on Facebook claims that as a child, Kenyan politician Raila Odinga refused to give a bunch of flowers to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

It shows a black and white photo of a small boy holding a bouquet to the side while a woman bends over to talk to him. Three people behind the pair look on, smiling.

“From the Archives. 7/10/52. 7 year old Raila Odinga refuses to hand over a bouquet of flowers to the Queen” the screenshot’s text reads.

A similar photo of the incident, taken from a different angle, has been posted on Facebook with the same claim, but saying it took place in three years earlier. The caption reads: “In 1949, a young Raila Odinga refused to give the Queen a bouquet of flowers. It's now proven that Raila was not born a giver.”

The photos have spread widely on Facebook, according to data from social media analytics tool CrowdTangle, drawing hundreds of reactions. But does it show a young Odinga refusing to give flowers to the queen? We checked.

‘Young Prince Selim’

Queen Elizabeth II, then a princess, visited Kenya in 1952. During the visit her father King George VI died, making her queen. She immediately flew back to the UK.  

A Google image search using the keywords “princess”, “Elizabeth”, “Nairobi”, “1952” and “airport” led us to yet another photo of the same incident with the same five people, on the Getty Images website.

Its caption reads: “Princess Elizabeth crouches down to receive a bouquet from young Prince Selim, watched by the Mayor of Nairobi (left), Alderman J R Maxwell, his wife and Prince Philip (right) at Nairobi airport at the start of a visit to Kenya, February 2nd 1952.”

One of the photos posted on Facebook can also be found on Getty Images, with a similar caption: “Small boy, born on the same day as Elizabeth's son Charles, having difficulty surrendering the flowers he was to present to the princess during her royal visit to Kenya.” Prince Charles was born on 14 November 1948, according to the British monarchy’s website.  

Reluctant Selim

Archive video of the visit also captures the flower incident. In footage from Reuters, the voiceover says it happened at the Pumwani maternity hospital in Nairobi, not at the airport. Footage of women in nurse’s uniform at the scene bears this out.

The video shows a reluctant Selim being shoved forward to present the bouquet to Elizabeth before retreating in a series of bows. The narrator says the “shy little African” is called Prince “because he shares Prince Charles’s birthday”.

Odinga was born on 7 January 1945, meaning he is at least four years older than Prince Charles and Prince Selim, and would have been seven years and one month old on the day the image was taken. The dates given for the incident in Facebook posts, such as 1949 and October 1952, are also incorrect. The incident happened in February 1952. – Vincent Ng’ethe


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