10 July, 2009

Why President Obama is not coming to Kenya

At a news conference after the G8 summit, Mr. Barack Obama said that when his father came to the United States in the the late 1950s, his home country of Kenya had an economy as large as that of South Korea - per capita. But today Kenya remains impoverished - with a GDP of about 21 billion dollars, and is politically unstable, while South Korea has become an economic powerhouse, with a GDP of about 900 billion dollars.
  • “There had been some talk about the legacies of colonialism and other policies by wealthier nations, and without in any way diminishing that history, the point I made was that the South Korean government, working with the private sector and civil society, was able to create a set of institutions that provided transparency and accountability and efficiency that allowed for extraordinary economic progress, and that there was no reason why African countries could not do the same.”
Having deep Kenyan roots and being much closer to Kenya than any to other African country, Mr. Obama is very right in being so hard and demanding on Kenya. Kenya is his home too, and who won't like to see one's own home being peaceful, secure and strong? Kenya is not yet settled; the politicians have yet to reconcile; bribery and corruption are still a very normal part of life. In the Corruption Perceptions Index for 2008, by Transparency International, Kenya - at number 147, was ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Some have wondered: how could Obama visit a corrupt, despotic African country like Egypt, and not visit Kenya? These are two complete different issues; Egypt is one of the most important players and movers for the search for Middle East peace. America very much needs Egypt, if peace is to be achieved in the Middle east. And most of all - Egypt, after Israel, is America's most important ally, in the most volatile part of the world: the Middle East. Obama had to visit Egypt.

The issue with Kenya is different. By not coming to Kenya, Obama is simply trying to send a message and get Kenyan leaders to move their country in the right direction. And the message is for all of Africa: the continent needs clean leaders and good governance. ".....if you talk to people on the ground in Africa, certainly in Kenya, they will say that part of the issue here is the institutions aren’t working for ordinary people and so governance is a vital concern that has to be addressed.” Are Kenyan leaders listening?

Search Safari Notes