NAIROBI, Kenya—Swamped by thousands of Kenyan fans at the memorial to victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy here, Barack Obama also on Friday pressured the Kenyan government to refund what he said was shakedown money two Chicago tv crews were forced to pay at the airport to get their equipment out of customs.
On Friday night, Obama foreign affairs advisor Mark Lippert showed up at the hotel where Obama and traveling press was staying with wads of cash in brown envelopes—one for CBS2 Chicago with $1,000 and another of about 59,000 Kenyan shillings, about $800 to the Chicago based Media Process Group, which is taping Obama’s Africa travels.
A serious occasion—a visit to the site of the terrorist attack—a foreshadowing by Osma bin Laden of what was to come—turned into an Obama fest as wellwishers mobbed him.
Obama’s day started with a meeting with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and part of the conversation the Illinois Democrat—whose father was a Kenyan—had with the president were blunt comments about corruption.
“We were fairly outfront about the importance of reducing corruption and crime in this country if Kenya wants to see significant economic development,’’ said Obama, who will deliver a speech on government corruption in the coming days.
As an example Obama told Kibaki that demands he considered bribes were made of Chicago tv crews flying to Kenya to cover his visit. CBS2 and the Media Process Group together paid about $800 and $1,000 to meet the demands of customs agents processing their taping equipment.
The Kenyan administration enclosed a note for Obama saying the money was being paid because it was determined that the crews were not subject to the laws and regulations requiring bonds be set for electronic equipment brought into the country to make sure it is not being imported resale.
Isaiya Kabira, Kibaki spokesman told by a U.S. reporter about the situation said Friday morning, “Nowadasy we installed cameras [in customs]. If any payment was made, it was a legal payment. There are a lot of clichés about Kenya and corruption. You walk in and someone says, I’m not going to let you in unless you give me a bribe – that kind of blatant corruption is over.��?
Obama did not agree with that conclsion. ``We got jacked up for $1,000 back there,’’ he said.