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Kenyans React to Senator Obama's Visit


Senator Barack Obama continues his visit to Kenya, the country where his father was born. Obama, the only black member of the US Senate, is on a five-nation Africa trip. Yesterday he toured Kibera, one of the biggest slums in Africa. He promised to work with the Kenyan government to bring opportunities to the people of the area. Senator Obama, who has met with Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, reportedly told the president that corruption is one of the major impediments to foreign investment. So how are Kenyans reacting to Senator Obama’s visit to their country? Alex Kibaki (not related to President Kibaki) is head of the secretariat of the ruling National Rainbow Coalition. He tells English to Africa reporter James Butty the people of Kenya have welcomed Senator Obama with open hands.

“The people of Kenya in general have received him with a lot of enthusiasm. They are also admired him because he’s a young man, a young person, and the leadership of a young person who has become a senator in the most powerful nation in the world, the United States, is no small achievement. So Obama is here giving encouragement to young leaders who are coming up. One hopes that this is a beginning of dialogue with many other leaders in the United States, particularly those with African heritage. They’re coming back home in Kenya and other parts of the continent to encourage particularly young leaders and to show that truly you can take up leadership anywhere in the world and also in your own country.”

Kibaki said it is remarkable that Senator Obama and his wife were tested for HIV before a large crowd in Kenya.

“There are many leaders who shy away from being known what status they are, and he is showing by example that this is not something that you need to be afraid of. This is something that you lead by example. To that extent, he’s a great leader. Members of the Kenyan parliament and leaders of all shape of opinion and cabinet ministers, they should emulate and show the public that this is something that you go through. You don’t just talk about it. So he is demonstrating by example.”

On Senator Obama’s criticism of corruption in Kenya, Kibaki says freedom of speech is one of the hallmarks of President Moi’s government, and all constructive criticisms are welcome. He said he hopes Senator Obama will also talk about the good things the Kenyan government is doing.

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