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Sweet Column: Obama's Africa trip.

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Sen. Barack Obama, whose father is from Kenya, travels to Africa -- and the village where his father lived -- in August on a trip designed to highlight the importance of the continent to the United States and the rest of the world.

Obama's itinerary for two weeks of travel starting mid-August includes stops in South Africa, Kenya, Sudan and possibly Congo -- holding the first elections in four decades later this month -- and Djibouti.

Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesman, said the purpose of the trip is to underscore that the fate of African nations has an effect on the United States and other nations "especially when it comes to stable governments, terrorism, energy security and humanitarian crises such as genocide and AIDS.

"The trip, we also hope, will help further establish and improve on important relationships the United States has with two of the continent's largest countries in South Africa and Kenya, underscore the importance of the biggest election ever organized by the United Nations by visiting Congo, visiting troops stationed in Djibouti to combat international terrorists in the region and finally seeing what can be done about the genocide in Africa's largest country, Sudan.''

Obama plans meetings with government officials and speeches in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa. The trip starts in Cape Town at Robben Island, the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was jailed during the apartheid years. The Congo and Djibouti visits will be brief because of security issues. Sudan, grappling with the ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur, will be the last stop.

Almost a week will be spent in Kenya, in Nairobi and the Masai Mara region.

It's not unusual for members of Congress to travel to African nations -- a House delegation was in Kenya last week, led by House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). Dreier was in Kenya to observe the work of the U.S. House Democracy Assistance Commission, which helps new democracies establish government services.

But Obama's unique situation -- the only African American in the Senate -- a son of an African with family in Kenya whose popularity in the United States is soaring to the point where he is being talked about as a presidential candidate -- makes this journey special, a trip of symbolism as well as substance.

Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on African Affairs. Obama, sworn into office in January 2005, in his freshman year visited Russia and other former Soviet states; Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank.

The African trip has been planned for months and comes as Obama's high profile is set for another vault with the presidential talk and the massive publicity surrounding the October publication of his second book, which will include a chapter on Obama's foreign policy views.

The son of a father from Kenya and mother from Kansas, Obama barely knew his father, who left his family in Hawaii when Obama was a baby to attend Harvard, never to return.

Obama has visited his father's Nyanza Province in Kenya twice -- but never, obviously, as a U.S. senator.

Interest in Obama's homecoming will be enormous. Last week, Dreier, in Nairobi, made news by confirming the Obama visit to Kenya next month.

Dreier told the Kenyan press last Wednesday that Obama was "very enthused and looking forward to this opportunity to come back home to Kenya.''

Dreier said he talked with Obama before he left and "he asked me to carry greeting and regards to everyone here in Kenya.''

A reporter from Kenyan television NTV put it this way in the story that ran about the coming Obama trip: "Barack Obama who was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2004 was born to a Kenyan father who hailed from a sleepy little village in Kogelo, Siaya district. And this village will perhaps be more eager to welcome their son home come next month.''

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5 Comments

It seems odd to me that Sen. Obama would be so consumed with his father and his paternal ancestry. After all, his father abandoned him and his mother when Mr. Obama was born and never looked back. I just wish the senator would recognize the contributions and struggles his mother and her family went through in raising him

what makes you think he doesnt care about his mother? he is on self discovery and we wish him well

Ali

USA

Sen Obama has every reason to remember both his maternal and paternal ancestry. After all his looks are from the mother and intellect from the father. Don't forget the Senator Obama is a peace maker, bridger of gaps.

Who is paying for this trip? I imagine the taxpayers again. Another of those Congressional Trips for no-good reason.

I think Senator Obama would have made far better use of his 5-week vacation by getting in touch with his constituents in Illinois. There are too many problems at home that are in need of solution. War in Iraq, no border security, 30% of high school students fail to graduate, number of middle-class Americans decreasing due to outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries & employment of illegals in the US.

But then again--money is no object with this man. He voted YEA on that so-called Senate Comprehensive Immigration Bill that will cost the Taxpayers an estimated 70 billion dollars (next 10 yrs.)

How come when a African American man of substanace and/or intelligence makes a descion whether it be political or personal, he is always' challenged or second guessed?
Why are politicians of European descent and born with privelge so quick to cause wars, cheat, lie, deceive, steal, and bully the less fortunate? That should be the question that is asked.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 10, 2006 7:55 AM.

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