Friday, January 4, 2008

Can Barack Obama save Kenya?

By winning the Iowa Primary this week, US Senator Barack Obama surmounted the first hurdle toward becoming his party's nominee in the 2008 US presidential election. But Americans may not be the only people turning to Obama in the coming days. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times views US presidential contender Barack Obama as a potentially influential figure in Kenya, during this bleak hour in that nation's history. Referring to Obama's visit to Kenya, Sweet wrote:

The Kenya leg of Obama's four-nation trip to Africa was the highlight because it was seen as a homecoming for the Illinois senator, whose father was Kenyan. Obama got his first taste of being treated by a nation as a hero. The upbeat press he got in the United States from the trip helped set the stage for his presidential bid.

Like the Chinese ideogram for "crisis," the situation in Kenya presents both "opportunity" and "danger" for the Obama candidacy. His critics claim Obama has a tendency to duck controversy (For example, the senator has reputation for avoiding controversial votes). Lynn Sweet continues:

I understand Obama has to be careful because while he is one of the most credible figures the United States has to deal with Kenya, the dispute between Odinga and Kibaki is mired in tribal politics. Obama, very aware that Kenyans may see him as a Luo* in this context, does not want to be seen as taking sides.

But Obama's claim of uniqueness is being offered as a reason he should be president. The Voice of America statement is a good first step. What's next? Obama can't vote present on Kenya.**

The senator from Illinois may be called upon rise to the challenge of Kenya. If the situation there continues to deteriorate, it may well prove the defining crisis of his candidacy.
* This ABC news commentary describes Obama's family connections with Kenya: "His father was an educated member of the Luo tribe, who much of the Luo elite -- like Odinga, the president's challenger -- actually knew. Obama told ABC News that his father also knew President Kibaki personally."
** "Obama can't vote present. . ." -- what does this mean? This NY Times article explores critics' (unfounded?) allegations that as Illinois state legislator, Obama ducked votes on contentious issues.
- Obama's recent statement on VOA.
- Someone claiming to be Obama's "cousin" in Kenya was a candidate in the recent election (more here).
- BBC reports on the reaction in Kenya to Obama's victory in Iowa.
- Obama's Wiki biography.

1 comment:

  1. mr barack obama must talk to kenya's leaders.he is held in such high regard and talked of america taking a positive role in the is the time election or not to prove his words true.real genocide can be avoided even by a video conference.


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