Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama gets "bribes" back for Chicago TV crews who had to pay extra at the Nairobi airport to get their cameras past Kenyan customs.


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.


I admire the Senator tremendously.

But speeches about government corruption -- in Africa.

And what of that in Chicago? and in Illinois?

You have misrepresented what happened to Sen.Obama in Kenya.The money the Chicago TV crews paid was not a bribe.It was legal custom duty as per Kenyan laws. That is why a receipt was given for the money. You do not get a receipt for a bribe, for the simple reason that a bribe is usually not recorded anywhere. Please make a correction and your newspaper will be known for respecting the truth. And truth will not hurt your Senator or anyone.

To help you, here is the text of the relavant Kenyan statute.
The Customs and Excise Act CHAPTER 472

143. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, goods imported in accordance
with this section for a temporary use or purpose only shall be exempt
from liability to duty.

(2) No goods shah be exempt from liability to duty under this section
unless the proper Officer has given permission-

(a) Unless he is satisfied that the goods are imported for a temporary
use or Purpose only; and

(b) Unless the owner thereof has deposited, or given security for, the
amount of the duty to which the goods would otherwise be

Provided that, notwithstanding subsection (4), the commissioner
may, in the case of filming equipment of a non-consumable nature,
accept an undertaking by the importer to export the equipment
within the period stipulated in this section in lieu of duty deposit or
security subject to the payment of a non-refundable fee of one per
cent ad valorem or such other fee as may be prescribed.

(3) Where the proper officer gives permission for the importation of
goods under this section, he may impose such conditions as he thinks
fit and, whether or not he imposes any conditions, it shall be a
condition of importation that the goods shall be exported within such
period not exceeding twelve months from the date of importation, as is
consistent with the purpose for which the goods are imported unless
the Minister otherwise directs.
(4) Where the conditions of the importation of the goods have been
complied with, then, on the exportation of the goods, any deposit or
security given under subsection (2) shall be refunded or discharged, as
the case may be.
(5) Where a condition of the importation of goods has been
contravened, the owner shall be guilty of an offence and shall be
required to pay a penalty equal to the duty which was due and payable
on the goods on the date of importation.
(6) Notwithstanding subsection (5), it shall be a condition that the
owner exports the goods within such period, not exceeding sixty days,
from the date of the payment of the penalty, as the proper officer may
allow, in default of which the goods shall be liable to forfeiture.
(7) Subject to subsection (5), sections 14 and 15, and not withstanding
subsection (6), the Commissioner may, upon receipt of an application
from the owner and prior to the expiry of the period allowed for
temporary importation, allow entry of the goods for home use if he is
satisfied with the reasons given.
(8) The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that the goods
specified in the notice shall not be imported in accordance with this
section, or may only be so imported subject to the goods being liable
to such proportion

Yeah...ok....this soothing customs statement makes me want to run out and get my tickets to Kenya...YIKES!!

Chicago Time should simply correct the impression and apologise to the Kenyans.It was legal and we need no lectures on how to carry our duties.Read the law and if the bond/cash deposit is what is called bribes,then....

Looks like Mr. Ngugi's post just confirms the obvious: Kenyan law actually FACILITATES bribes. To wit:

"Where the proper officer gives permission for the importation of
goods under this section, he may impose such conditions as he thinks

Yikes is right.

It depends on how you intepret but know that officers undergo a rigorous two year training to study Customs Law.I do not want to question your background but I will not talk about journalism or any other proffession which I will not be competent.What it simply means a bribe goes to someones pocket a legal fee with a receipt goes to the custody of government.It is international find out from USA Customs service what it means.Yikes is right on misunderstanding the Law.You cannot just come up with a wild idea,it must be based on the Value of the equipment,cash deposit/bond

To me the whole thing is based on past stories and has therefore brought corruption hysteria.I know people believe Kenyans/Africans are beggars.Get it right the officers are not un educated lot to solicit bribes,they are also well paid -Get to the bottom of the situation.Was the money pocketed,did they give any receipt?.Or they feel they are supposed to be treated big and therefore to be exempted from procedure ? Which law will best suit the visiting Americans?

It's pretty obvious that the news crew expected some kind of special glove treatment since they were there to cover the Senator's trip. If duty is due, pay it......why didn't they do their homework before embarking on the trip to know what kind of duty taxes are required as they cross borders. On the other hand, the Kenyan Government should have waived duty for the entire Obama delegation proactively since it was an official visit.

another clear case of western attitudes. we have laws in kenya maybe trying to understand other peoples laws is unamerican but when in kenya do as kenyand do and pay the duty .

I agree with Mark:The senator should not have rushed to conclude they were being "jacked up"!At the very least organisers of his trip should have found out how much money, if any, they need to pay as they travel.It certainly was not the Kenya Govt. job.

Aside from that, such statutes as those from the Kenyan Customs Act do encourage corruption. Guidelines should be coded to guide the customs officers on what charges to levy!!

Looks like Senator Obama is business as usual, I was hoping for more.
Whats he going to Africa for anyhow, isnt there enough problems at home for him to deal with and why should we pay for his families trip, its bad enough we have to pay for him..

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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 August 25, 2006 3:35 PM.

Obama: Tells Kenyan President Chicago TV crews had to pay bribes to get equipment out of Nairobi airport. was the previous entry in this blog.

OBAMA AFRICAN TRAVEL: WHO PAYS is the next entry in this blog.

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