April 20, 2019

What next for Kenya after Obama’s visit


By Calvin Osiemo


President of the United States popularly referred to as POTUS left the country on Sunday at around 4:20 PM East African Time headed for Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where he is expected to meet the African Union. However, the main questions now is what next after the three-day visit by the world’s most powerful man?

The tour by Obama has been characterized by a number of issues that he addressed and has been considered as a ‘personal visit’ to him based on the magnitude of the speech he gave and the approach he gave it. He went ahead to give an account of his personal life including that of  his family and how the journey has been for him before he came to rule the world’s super power. A couple of issues took center stage during his visit in the country.

One of the key issues the United States of America President has asked Kenya is to embrace electoral reforms. During his speech at the Kasarani sports stadium on Sunday morning, Obama emphasized on the urge to remain united to avoid dividing the country along tribal lines. Electoral reforms he said would help the country hold credible elections in the future and let the will of the citizens be represented.

“Democracy begins with elections, it does not stop with elections. For this system to succeed, we also have to have room for citizens to exercise their rights,” Obama said.

Obama also met the civil society groups in Kenya and had an opportunity to deliberate on various issues they groups are dealing with. He met them at the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) Centre at The Kenyatta University. He applauded the good work the civil society groups are doing in the country terming them as the hope of the country. However he openly criticized the opposition for asking the US to push the government on some issues but asked why when the opposition leaders were in power didn’t want to be pushed by the US.

“I met with some of the opposition leaders very briefly after the speech and I told them you have a legally elected government and we gonna work with that government but we are also always going to be listening to all elements of the Kenyan society. It was funny though that one of those leaders I won’t mention who was saying you really need to press the Kenyan government on some issues. And I had to say to them I remember when you were in the government, you kept on saying why are you trying to interfere with the Kenyan business you should mind you won business,” Obama said

The sentiments were relayed by Obama when he met Oppositions leaders, Raila Odinga, Co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka (wiper), Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula, (Ford-Kenya) and Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua at the VVIP section of the Safaricom Indoor Arena. The meeting focused on strengthening Devolution as a lifeline for a majority of Kenyans, protection for civil society and electoral reforms. The opposition expressed its satisfaction on the way Obama had addressed issues that they termed as critical to Kenya. They presented a memorandum to President Obama on the issues they would want the US to help intervene in. The opposition will unveil the contents of the memorandum on Monday

Obama wondered why some people want the US to be involved when they’re not in power but take a different position when they in opposition.

“Everybody wants the United States to be very involved when they are not in power and when they are in power they want the United States to mind their own business,” Obama said.

Obama described America as a friend to Kenya who wants the country to forge its way towards success. He outlined three key aspects that will see Kenya grow if properly implemented and they include Democracy and fair governance, equitable development and peace and reconciliation.

“Kenya is at crossroads. It is filled with peril but also filled with enormous progress. Tough choices will have to be made if Kenya is to achieve its bright destiny,” Obama said.

Obama urged on the need to stop treating women as second class citizens saying they play a vital role in the development of any nation in the world citing an example of a team that has half of the members not playing.

“To continue down the path of progress, it is important for Kenya to realize that no country can achieve its full potential unless it draws from the full potential of all its people and that includes the half of Kenyans, probably a little more than half, that is women and girls. Around the world there is a tradition of repressing women and treating them differently and not giving them same opportunities; husbands beating their wives and children not being sent to school; treating women and girls as second class citizens-those are bad traditions, they need to change, and they are holding you back. There is no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence. There is no reason young girls should suffer Female Genital Mutilation “he said

The war against terror was addressed with Obama saying it’s not a Kenyan problem rather a global challenge to be dealt with collectively. He however warned against religious profiling saying it is a step backwards in the war against terrorism. The US president did not leave the corruption menace unattended congratulating the government of the huge steps staged in the graft fight. Obama urged the government to fight corruption at all levels irrespective of those involved urging prosecution of those at the top.

“If someone in public office is taking a cut of what they don’t deserve, that’s taking away from those that deserve their fair share. The folks at the top who are taking from the ordinary people need to be prosecuted,” he said.


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