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Friday, July 10, 2009

Obama lambasts Kenya

President Barack Obama has spoken out on his administration’s approach to Africa on the eve of a symbolic visit to Ghana this weekend at which he is expected to make a major speech outlining Washington’s foreign policy goals to the continent.

Mr Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was interviewed by the online news service All Africa.com. In the excerpts released on Wednesday by the US President’s Press Office, Mr Obama singled out Tanzania in the East African region for praise, was critical of Kenya’s democratic path and silent on Uganda. “You’ve seen some very good work by the administration in Tanzania focusing on how to deliver concrete services to the people, and wherever folks want to help themselves, we want to be there as a partner,” he said. “And I think that you’ve got some very strong leadership in Africa that is ready to move forward and we want to be there with them,” Obama added.

Mr Obama repeats what Africa experts have already called the linchpin of current US administration’s African policy; a focus on good governance. The US President makes it clear that his choice of Ghana for his first African visit is because Accra has been characterised as a stable country in Africa having gone through two peaceful transitions of power. “Countries that are governed well, that are stable and where the leadership recognises that they are accountable to the people and that institutions are stronger than any one person have a track record of producing results for the people” Mr Obama said.

Mr Obama said he was concerned about the country of his father’s birth, Kenya, which has also come to symbolise the soft underbelly of democracies in Africa. Once considered an island of stability, Kenya descended into chaos after the disputed December elections of 2007. “I am concerned about how the political parties do not seem to be moving into a permanent reconciliation that would allow the country to move forward” he said. On aid, Mr Obama said a holistic approach was necessary which recognised that Africans were responsible for their destiny. “I think what’s hampered the advancement in Africa is that for many years we’ve made excuses about corruption and poor governance; that this was somehow the consequence of neo-colonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism. I’m not a believer in excuses,” he said.

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