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Reply to "Kenya 'beats the drums' for Sen. Obama"

Senator Obama ill-informed: Kenyan government
By Tia Goldenberg
Reuters



NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenya on Thursday accused Senator Barack Obama, a rising star in America's Democratic party, of making inaccurate criticisms about corruption in the country of his father.

Obama, who is a role model to many in the east African nation, on Wednesday ended what amounted to a homecoming tour during which he declared graft a crisis crippling development and reversing Kenya's democratic gains.

Kenya routinely accuses foreign officials of spouting neo-colonial sentiments when they have criticized the corruption that has plagued the country for decades.

Obama's Kenyan roots had appeared to forestall that tactic.

"Senator Obama made extremely disturbing statements on issues which it was clear he was very poorly informed," government spokesman Alfred Mutua told reporters in Nairobi on Thursday.

Mutua, who recently launched a government public relations campaign urging people to say "I am proud to be a Kenyan" to counter negative media reports, said Obama's views on graft and tribal divisions were unwelcome.

"He chose to lecture the government and the people of Kenya on how to manage our country," Mutua said.

In his various stops around the country, Obama told both ecstatic crowds and senior politicians of the need for transparency to encourage development.

In a speech at the University for Nairobi on Monday, Obama said graft had allowed a Rwandan wanted for war crimes in that country's 1994 genocide to hide in Kenya and that police were a source of insecurity.

Corruption scandals have rocked East Africa's largest economy, spurring the resignations of three ministers, several public inquiries and constant threats by foreign donors to withhold aid.

Kenyans gave the senator a welcome fit for a rock star throughout his trip, sporting T-shirts bearing his face and cheering him in the streets.

Though not born in Kenya, many Kenyans idolize him the way the Irish in the 1960s revered former U.S. President John F. Kennedy -- as a native son who gave them hope for succeeding beyond their wildest dreams.

The senator's tour included a visit to his late father's village in western Kenya, a stroll through Kibera -- one of Africa's largest slums -- and stop at a mobile clinic to get tested for HIV/AIDS with his wife.

His trip started in South Africa, where he criticized that country's controversial AIDS policy. He arrived in Djibouti on Thursday to visit U.S. marines stationed there.

08/31/06 11:50 ET
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