African business, politics and lifestyle
Is Obama Snubbing Kenya on Africa trip?
Some Kenyans believe Obama ought to have come “home” first. Others, especially among critics of President Mwai Kibaki’s government, say he has deliberately shunned the country to show U.S. disapproval of rampant corruption and nepotism in political circles here.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who comes from the Luo ethnic group like Obama’s father, said it was wrong to read too much into Obama’s itinerary, given that neither was he visiting other influential nations in the region like South Africa and Nigeria.
“Ghana is symbolic. It was the first African country to gain independence from Britain in 1957. Ghana is very advanced in its transition to democratic form of governance. So it is perfectly logical,” he told Reuters.
“If Obama were to come to Kenya as the first country in Africa, it would send some very wrong signals that he is coming here merely because of some organic relationship that he has with this country. So in fact it is good.”
Obama has been to Kenya several times, most recently as a senator in mid-2006. In a speech then, he took a strong line against corruption, which has plagued East Africa’s largest economy for decades. “If the people cannot trust their government to do the job for which it exists – to protect them and promote their common welfare – then all else is lost. That is why the struggle of corruption is one of the great struggles of our time,” he said.
That speech drew a sharp response from the government. Spokesman Alfred Mutua called Obama a young man who was “very poorly informed” and chided him for “lecturing” Kenyans. When Obama took power, however, the Kibaki government was so happy it announced a national holiday in his honour. The U.S. leader is wildly popular among all sectors of Kenyan society.
So should Obama have included Kenya on his Africa tour? Is he snubbing his ancestral homeland?