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Envoy hits at Obama over graft remark
Saturday September 2, 2006
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Envoy hits at Obama over graft remark

By Chris Wamalwa, in Washington, DC

The Kenyan Government, through its Mission to the US, has condemned Senator Barack Obama’s remarks on Monday on rampant corruption.

In a letter to the Illinois Senator, the Kenyan Ambassador (designate) to the US, Mr Peter Oginga Ogego, termed Obama’s remarks as having been in bad taste and injurious to Kenya-US bilateral relations.

The statement said in part: "I hereby wish to communicate to you the displeasure and disappointment of the Government of Kenya, (Kenyan) Embassy in Washington DC, and majority of Kenyans, with regards to your recent utterances while in Kenya.

"Your unprovoked and uncalled for statements were in bad taste, particularly given that your visit was well arranged in advance, with full briefings given to your office in Washington DC by the Kenya Embassy."

Ogego said that, rather than nurture and strengthen the existing cordial and mutually beneficial relations between USA and Kenya, Mr Obama’s "wild" accusations that corruption and tribalism have reached a crisis point in Kenya, could only poison and injure relations between the two countries.

Ogego accused the Senator of deliberately twisting the truth about the Government’s fight against corruption to gain publicity.

"You deliberately, without real cause or reason, other than what appears (to be) to seek cheap publicity and inconsequential populism, chose to publicly attack the democratically elected Government of Kenya, in total disregard for the requisite protocol and acceptable methods to address the issues you raised, what with programmed appointments to meet Cabinet Ministers and even the Head of State, since your visit was official," Ogego said.

The Ambassador’s statement comes in the wake of divided opinions in the US concerning the Senator’s speech, made at the University of Nairobi on Monday. Obama identified corruption and ethnicity-based politics and patronage as among challenges that Kenya must overcome.

While most Kenyans hailed the speech and termed it as honest opinion and groundbreaking in the fight against corruption, some diplomatic experts have said that the Senator’s speech is likely to strain the relations between the Kenya and the US.

In his letter, copies of which were sent to the US State Department and the local and international press, Ogego said that, while Kenya genuinely appreciated the support it has received from the US Government through its different departments and groups in restoring institutions of public governance and the rule of law, the Government hoped that this support and engagements would be conducted in a more civil manner.

Ogego told the Senator that the Kenya Government considered his proclamation that the Government has lost war on corruption as a smack of bigotry.

He said: "Rather than appreciate and even encourage the gallant and heroic efforts that our Government and Kenyans have put in dismantling the deeply embedded networks and chains of corruption, you carelessly, in a manner akin to political activism, chose to trash and sneer at us".

Ogego added that the Senator’s remarks demonstrated a naive understanding of the challenges involved in skilfully managing a political transition with weak and nascent institutions of public governance, while maintaining a delicate balance, especially in an ethnically diverse country. He said most of the cases of corruption being dealt with originated during the former administration.

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