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Obama skipping Kenya due to poor governance, say religious leaders

Nairobi, 29 May (ENI) –Some Kenyan Christian and Muslim leaders say that U.S. President Barack Obama has decided to avoid his father’s home country during his debut visit to Africa as a statement against poor governance in Kenya.

Other Kenyans have simply expressed regret that their country is not on Obama’s itinerary.

"People are angrier with the government than about Obama’s failure to come to his ancestral home," Anglican Bishop Joseph Wasoga of Maseno West told Ecumenical News International, a few days after the U.S. State Department announced Obama would visit Egypt on 4 June, to address the Muslim world.

From 10 to 11 July, Obama will visit Ghana in his first official stop in Sub–Saharan Africa.

Kenyans, who have a special affinity to Obama due to his father’s birth in the east African country, have since debated the presidential itinerary.

Wasoga said Kenyans had understood the U.S. government’s view to mean that it did not want, "to be associated with a government uninterested in reforms".

"His arrival here [in Africa] becomes a real moment of celebration," said Wasoga. "But we do not want a contradiction, that he arrives and there is nothing to celebrate."

Sheikh Juma Ngao, the Mombasa-based chairperson of the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims said Ghana was a good example of Africa’s real path towards democracy.

"Let Kenyans learn from Ghana to unite and reconcile the country, in order to carry out complete constitutional reforms," said Ngao. "But I am sure he must visit his ancestral land in the course of his leadership."

In Nyang’oma Kogelo in western Kenya, where the U.S. president’s late father, Hussein Obama, came from, many people are dispirited. Like other Kenyans, they had hoped Obama would visit his father’s ancestral land.

"One cannot run away from one’s home, no matter how bad it is," commented Washington Gede, a Pentecostal church leader in western Kenya.

"We prayed during his election and God answered our prayers. It would be proper if he finds time out of his busy schedule to visit his ancestral land," noted Anglican Bishop Simon Oketch of Maseno North. In November, Kenya declared a national holiday and celebration when Obama was elected president.

"He has a special relationship with Kenya and will visit at an appropriate time," said Moses Wetangula, Kenya’s foreign affairs minister.


(c) Ecumenical News International