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Is Obama Snubbing Kenya on Africa trip?

July 2, 2009

President Barack Obama’s choice of Ghana for his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office has stirred debate in his father’s homeland Kenya.

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?


Given the problems in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, North Korea, up-coming talks with Russia and Poland, and countless other major issues involving the US economy, healthcare, and security – why on earth would Obama come to Kenya? Holiday?? Kenya is already the home of the largest US diplomatic mission in sub-Saharan Africa, and loads of aid money and projects. In the absence of a clear, pressing issue to personally resolve regarding US interests in Kenya, an Obama trip to Kenya would only reinforce the perceived values of tribalism and nepotism, which are two of the biggest obstacles standing between Kenyans and their rights, freedom and the rule of law. Obama is smart to stay away.


By all means, no. Why should have Obama gone to Kenya? No reason really. May be it gives Kenya enough time to clean house; erradicate corruption, nepotism and get her footing on a proper democrasy. I don’t even think Kenya qualifies as a holiday destination for Obama :)

Posted by Tony | Report as abusive

Kenya may be corrupt but it is nowhere comparable to the current regime in Nigeria. Even a wanted criminal in the UK is part of the Yar’adua “kitchen cabinet” with a diplomatic passport that he has been known to travel with President in the past.Would President Yar’adua mind telling the world why James Ibori won’t be extradited to the UK to face charges of money laundering as requested by the Metropolitan Police through the UK Foreign Office?I hope this is a strong message to all corrupt African government – those days when it used to be ‘business as usual’ is coming to an end.

Posted by Emeka | Report as abusive

Good point by praxical. I feel far too much is expected of Obama, in Africa and around the world. Expectations are so high it is inevitable that they will not be fulfilled, and Obama’s popularity will suffer as a result. I live in Kenya and the fact that Obama is not coming has intensified attention on the governance issues which separate Kenya from a place like Ghana, which remains a beacon of light for African democracy. That said, I do expect Obama to do more, or at least as much, as his predecessor did for Africa – but the impetus for change must come from Africa itself.

Posted by Steven | Report as abusive

Maybe it would have been smarter to visit kenya first, but I agree there’s plenty of other urgent stuff he has to take care of first.


Obama is the American president .He can visit any country He wants to visit .His visit to Ghana will not add anything new to the Ghanian people .Just as his visit will not add anything to Kenya. I think the people of Africa Ghana included would rather have free and fair trade with America rather than official visits that are just PR opportunities


Kenyan politicians have paid no attetntion to Obama’s previuos displeasure as to how the system works including graft and corruption.Kenyans better understand that Obama is an American not Kenyan.I disagree with a lot of Obama policies but in this case not paying attention to Kenya as a first place to visit in black Africa, I agree with him.

Posted by TONY | Report as abusive

Obama is a smart politician, coming to Kenya was not going to be a smart move, praxicals comments sum it all up rather well. If Obama wins a second term however, you can be sure he will make stops in Kenya, for now, with the rabid hate of the Republican party, I think it would do both Kenya and Obama good if the 44th President of the USA snubs a rotten regime that has people like William Ruto in government and keeps clear of his fatherland.

Posted by Econ M | Report as abusive

Obama is right to go to Ghana. It hosts the largest population in the African continent of registered American voters with dual citizenship. Of any African country, that is the right one for a US head of state to visit first. As for democracy in Africa,he was in Egypt earlier, was’nt he…?

Posted by Ann | Report as abusive

President Obama is too big a man to let the politics of tribe play a part in his thinking. His father was from Kenya so there was one reason why he might want to visit Kenya first but there are political reasons why he would not want Kenya at the top of the list.President Obama would want to make a difference in Africa, help draw the continent out of the dark ages into the light of freedom and democracy. He will need to find African partners to do that. There are a very few potential African leaders to pick from – the continent has more than its lion’s share of despots and tyrants.One of the most recent traits African leaders have adopted to help each other hang on to power against the popular will of the people is by forcing the winning candidate to share power in government of national unity. Those are some of the African leaders President Obama must shun. If President Obama visited Kenya he would, whether he likes it or not, be President Kibaki’s guest, not Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s, and thus endorsing Kibaki’s GNU machination.President Obama has millions of friends in ordinary Africans but when it comes to the continent’s leaders he will is seating all alone!

Posted by Wilbert Mukori | Report as abusive

Muiguithania tell them, Obama would be obliged to visit Kogelo if he did Visit Kenya, and with all the security detail entailed, Its no place to have the American president.

Posted by Njau | Report as abusive

No, President Obama should use his foreign trips wisely. By visiting despotic governments, he would be giving legitimacy to regime’s that are oppressive and that furthers their control. “Snubbing” them as put in this article, is more of a wake-up message that you are not on the right track from the U.S. perspective. We need to do the one thing that America has been very good at but has been shelved for the last 8 years….diplomacy.


Africa is a truely wonderful place and there is so much of it to be seen. How can it be that because the President chooses to visit the rest of Africa that he is snubbing Kenya. That is an pure assumption and one I am sure is not true. There is much beauty to be found in Africa. I recently found a video that proves my point, and if your interested in taking a look at the beauty of Africa visit


Obama is simply too busy to visit more than one African country right now. He is just now getting to Russia and Italy. He will certainly visit Kenya and other African countries later. I do believe, however, the current progressiveness and stable democratic nature of Ghana no doubt played a role in the decision. He wouldn’t want to choose a country still in a lot of turmoil. He has enough turmoil dealing with the U.S. Congress every day. The strange people, most of whom seem to watch Fox News, suggesting he is afraid to go to Kenya for fear of birth certificates surfacing and of revelations that he was born there are really Far Out. They want conspiracies–don’t they know he has a perfectly legitimate birth certificate, that has been carefully vetted by a number of newspapers in the U.S., from his birth in Hawaii on August 4, 1961? It can even be viewed online, published by the Chicago Herald-Tribune.

Posted by John Studstill | Report as abusive

He is right. Kenya is too messy and is a shame.Speaking in democracy in Africa, do not forget that first successful system was the Cape Verde one. Zero bullets shot, or people dead, at the transition for democracy and the outcome was same in 12 elections!


Obama is American first. In his country, his kind are referred to as African American – not Kenyan American. I don’t see the reason why we should argue over this when Odinga (love or hate the man) has summed it up very well. And to add to that, in most countries, their presidents visit other countries for a political or business reason. It’s not like the way our African presidents travel around the globe, wily nilly, like they are visiting extended families. When he’s due for holiday, he’ll let you know or you’ll catch it on CNN…But right now, the man is working.

Posted by Mr. G | Report as abusive

Too much is being made about the implications of Obama’s visit, people should accept the facts as there, he is going there for a mission…not to send a symbolic message


Right now, he prefers European countries where he can FREELY enjoy all the luxuries as a celebrity politician. Be patient, he will visit his father’s Kenya as soon as, his private (French style) holiday mansion is completed!


Let’s face it – the real reason Obama chose Ghana is because of its softness. Ghanaians of today are known for being less critical and soft on the west. South Africa is more stable democratically and has more influence on the continent. Yet, I assume Obama will not be visiting there soon.The reason is simple – South Africans are independent thinkers. They will not just take anything from the big countries. There will not sit down there and clap when Obama claims the west is not responsible for some of Africa’s woes. They will not sit down and clap hands when Obama adopts the British position on Zimbabwe.On the other hands I suspect the Ghanaians will applaud everything Obama says.

Posted by John Brown | Report as abusive

President Obama’s stance about “good governance” in the African countries is very timely and very perfect remark to impress investors, but who among those African Leaders has the WILL to serve and end poverty for their people? Who cares about investors anyway, there is plenty of wealth in our natural resources in Africa to loot from! Whether investors come or go, the leaders in power (some, if not most) as long as they fill their own pockets with loot from their starving citizens, it makes no difference, they all make sure before their term of office end, they have more than enough in outside banks, mansions to rent to diplomats and bank their rents outside African, have their friends, children relatives go shopping spree and go to UK, Paris or USA for a toothache treatments only for shopping spree.There no medicines in government hospitals, no education materials in government schools while teachers are underpaid, simply because they can afford to send their children abroad.The evils perpetuated by our African leaders against their own people who voted them in office are bottomless.Only God knows and will end this torture by touching their hearts that “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” change their heart.

Posted by Kibibi | Report as abusive

President Obama is not snobbing his father-land, Kenya. He is teaching them a lesson, a lesson for Kenyan to emulate countries like Ghana in Africa. They need to respect the voice of their people and the resources of their citizens. African countries in general need to eshew corruption and stubbornness to rule their people with iron-hands. Thevices are bringing down Africa, and they have been bringing down the continent for decades.Wake up Africans! Wake up leaders of motherland!

Posted by Morris | Report as abusive

Hats off to the president of the world.He is merely being impartial by not visiting Kenya.Remember he also has Sudanese origins,so why are we also not talking about him not going to Sudan?The Kenyan ,Zimbabwean and other African politicians need to put their house in order.


Clinton did not visit Gabon, though it is on the cusp of the most important election of it\’s historyGoverned by a doggedly autocratic ruler for over four decades, theCentral West African country of Gabon has finally been given a fragileand fleeting opportunity for democratic leadership by the death ofOmar Bongo, 72. However despite international investigations thatturned up evidence of a $200 million plus personal family fortune clearingpointing to gross corruption and substantial embezzlement of thecountry\’s significant oil revenues and questionable foreign investments, the dynastic political manoeuvring of a Bongo into power remains a distinct possibility.Bongo\’s son, Ali-Ben Bongo, is currently poised to assume thePresidential position as the electoral candidate for the powerfulruling party, PDG. Long known for his ability to silence critics andwoo political rivals into the fold, Bongo\’s legacy includes governmentcontrol of all telecoms and media virtually guaranteeing thatthe opposition get no air time or platform. Regardless of thesedifficulties, 8 candidates are participating in the August 30th elections at a moment in history where Gabon desperately needs transparent, independent and regulatedgovernment.Though rich oil and mineral reserves combined with a smallpopulation mean that Gabon is one of the richest nations inSub-Saharan Africa, with a per capita income 4 times the average and aGDP of over $20billion, most of the country languishes in poverty.Away from from the cool air conditioned government buildings and theopulent presidential palaces, at least 30% of the populationsurvive on less than $1 a day and living without food, water,electricity and basic sanitation.One independent nominee looking toalleviate the crippling poverty and harsh life of the Gabonese peopleis Bruno Ben Moubamba. Born the year Omar Bongo first came to power in1967, Moubamba has a powerful vision of a post-Bongo Gabon which he isworking hard to communicate across an information-restricted Gabon byharnessing the power of new technology Hopefulthat the democratic process will result in a more passionate,inclusive and citizen-centric government, Moubamba is determined todevelop and diversify Gabon\’s economy so that one day it is thepeople, not simply the leaders of this beautiful country, thatbenefit.

Posted by Juniper D | Report as abusive

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