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Kenya 'beats the drums' for Sen. Obama

He'll take public HIV test to counter stigma, visit ancestral village

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- Barack Obama may have only landed Thursday for his latest visit to his father's homeland, but the U.S. senator is already become the country's most prominent "citizen."

People drinking a Kenyan beer called Senator are ordering "Obama" instead. Obama's photograph is popping up on T-shirts, and the once knee-high grass in his ancestral village was cut in advance of his arrival.

As the only African-American in the U.S. Senate, Obama is seen as an inspiration in this east African country where more than half its 33 million people eke out a living on less than $1 a day.

Obama arrived Thursday for a six-day visit, and planned to meet with President Mwai Kibaki and stop at the site where Nairobi's U.S. Embassy was bombed in 1998, killing 248 people.

The Illinois Democrat, his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia, 8, and Sasha, 4, were greeted at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi by U.S. Ambassador Michael E. Ranneberger, the embassy said.
Making headlines

Just an hour after his plane touched down, Obama's arrival was making headline news on the country's leading television stations and local journalists chased his entourage as it left the airport.

"Village beats the drums for returning son" declared the Daily Nation newspaper, the most widely read in Kenya.

In Nyangoma-Kogelo, a tiny village tucked away in the rural west where chickens roam free and tiny boys in rags tend their flocks, residents have been preparing for weeks for Obama's return. Local newspapers reported that the dirt road leading to his 85-year-old grandmother's house was leveled.

Local media reported that Sarah Hussein, who will have to communicate with Obama through an interpreter, will treat him just like any other grandchild.

The senator grew up in Hawaii with his American mother after his parents divorced. He has visited Kenya three times, most recently in the early 1990s to introduce his then-fiancee to his Kenyan family. This is his first trip to Kenya since being sworn into office as a U.S. senator.

The senator's father, also named Barack Obama, became a university lecturer in Uganda after studying economics at Harvard University. He then worked in Kenya's private sector before joining the treasury department, where he became a senior economist.

He died in a car crash in 1982, leaving three wives, six sons and a daughter. One son died in 1984 and all his surviving children, except one, live in Britain or the United States.

Obama's paternal grandfather, Onyango Hussein Obama, was one of the first Muslim converts in the village.
Public HIV test

During the senator's visit, he plans to take a public HIV test at a clinic in Nyangoma-Kogelo in an effort to promote AIDS prevention in a country where 700 people die on average per day from HIV/AIDS.

Although there have been recent declines in the amount of people infected with the virus in Kenya, two million people out of a total population of 33 million are infected. Around 1.5 million people have died from the disease -- and western parts of the country are the worst hit.

After his visit to Kenya, Obama is headed to Djibouti and Chad. He began his African tour Sunday with a visit to Nelson Mandela's former prison at Robben Island. He has met with black businessmen, AIDS victims and U.S. Embassy officials, among others.

He paid tribute to South Africans' fight for freedom, saying they taught lessons to the world and helped inspire his own political career.

Aides said Wednesday that Obama had scrapped plans to visit Congo and Rwanda at the request of the U.S. Embassy in Congo because of postelection fighting in that country's capital, Kinshasa.


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'As the only African-American in the U.S. Senate,...'---article

Very interesting article.

I am compelled to noted that 'language'; terminology, is indeed important in maintaining and advancing the society in which we live.

Although its accurate may have been in unintended, the term 'African-American' is precisely correct because of the use of the hyphen.

It accurately distinguishes Senator Obama in the U. S. senate from all other members of that body both in terms of his ancestry, AND his ethnicity.

It is good to see the 'connect' being demonstrated in Africa as is the norm for the nations of Europe, and Asia.


Jim Chester

A societal note.
Senator Obama ill-informed: Kenyan government
By Tia Goldenberg

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
The Ja luo(People of Luo, Obama's ethnic goup) are so proud... It's been quite humorous, some luo govn't officials are claiming to be relatives... Odiero(Boss man)

I uderstand that governments are sensitive to crticism from anyone considering the international policy of the Amerikkkan governmental, but the Kenya's govn't is only 2nd in corruption to Nigeria. And to call Obama's statements 'neo-colonial' islaughable considering the govn't ruling class is pimping the nations resources out to the real colonialists to line their pockets. They need to lay off Obama, their own citizens clown the corruption constanctly(all my Kenyen friends do).

Kibera isn't 'one of Africa's slums"...It's 'the largest African slum'.

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