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Obama: Tells Kenyan President Chicago TV crews had to pay bribes to get equipment out of Nairobi airport.

| 37 Comments

NAIROBI, Kenya---Sen. Barack Obama told Kenyan President Kibaki on Friday that two Chicago TV crews faced shake-downs at the Nairobi airport and paid bribes of $800 and $1,000 to get their equipment past customs agents.

Obama made the statement during a morning meeting with the Kenyan president and a number of other ministers. The Illinois Senator, who already planned to deliver a speech on government corruption here, mentioned the incidents during a discussion, a source in the U.S. embassy in Nairobi told me.

Crews from CBS2 Chicago and the Media Process Group, also based in Chicago, had already arranged to pay about $1,000 each to have an "expediter'' meet them at the airport to walk them through customs.

While countries have legitimate concerns about people trying to smuggle in high-end electronics for resale in a country, the crews paid the expediters in the face of having no transparent, upfront process to follow.

The situation in Nairobi was so bad, even the "expediters'' could not break through the corruption.

At a briefing on Thursday night, Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs told the crews, "both of you will be on tomorrow's agenda with the president of Kenya.''

The embassy source said that President Kibaki replied that he was trying to root out corruption--and may try to get the money back.

37 Comments

Having travelled to kenya, i must say i think senetor obama and the press have it all mixed up.kenya has an ellaborate tax system that is sometimes difficult to understand . only twoo weeks ago the chief world bank reoresentative complained of a shake down only over a traffic incident only to be reminded that while in kenya kenyan laws apply.this wasnt a "shakedown" maybe if foreigners took time to understand kenyan laws they would be crying wolf all the time

kenyans are corrupt. period.

This type of bribery is not unusual for Africa, but it is still WRONG.

Acquaintances have told me of similar bribes occurring at the airport in Lagos, Nigeria. If you want to get your camera through customs, be ready to shell out $$$$.

This is NOT news ! Most folks know almost every 3rd world, communist, and dictatorship nation, as well as new fledging democracies exist by pay-offs, graft, corruption, and Black Market economies. So why is this such a big story?

If everybody said NO and refused to give bribes then bribery would die a quite death.

Since when did we pre-arrange to pay a bribe, it smacks of paranoia and media ignominy.
Entrapment suggestive of a pro active media out to contain corruption; setting an agenda may well here rancor with debasement of the hosts.
Hijacking an agenda, foreign journalists wishing to maintain a semblance of relevancy are at it again. Denying the local media any form of credible reporting against a milieu of perceived entrenched corruption. Atrocities against the 240 member foreign journalists association of East African being rife in the surrounding countries they have created a permanent domicile in Nairobi and with a need to send a more telling story back home are creating conspiracy theories, discrediting honest reporting and continued brandishing of Africa as a Mecca of Extortion.

Let the Chap have an agenda less visit. Cast your nets in Congo, Darfur or braze the bullets in Somali and Ethiopia.

Since when did we pre-arrange to pay a bribe? It smacks of paranoia and media ignominy.
Entrapment suggestive of a pro active media out to contain corruption; setting an agenda may well here rancor with debasement of the hosts.
Hijacking an agenda less vacation, foreign journalists wishing to maintain a semblance of relevancy are at it again. Denying the local media any form of credible reporting against a milieu of perceived entrenched corruption. Atrocities against the 240 member foreign journalists association of East African being rife in the surrounding countries they have created a permanent domicile in Nairobi and with a need to send a more telling story back home are creating conspiracy theories, discrediting honest reporting and continued brandishing of Africa as a Mecca of Extortion.

Let the Chap have an agenda less visit. Cast your nets in Congo, Darfur or braze the bullets in Somali and Ethiopia.

we like people to get rid of corruption

My Fellow country men learn to be discreet at times!

How do these "expeditors" differ from the guys you pay to get building permits out of City Hall?

Legally speaking, to arrange, in advance, the payment of a bribe, is in itself a crime.

To then complain abut the payment would not hopefully cause anybody to issue a refund, and to prosecute anybody.

In the US the OFFERING of a bribe is a crime. And likewise it that the caae in Kenya. So you can't begin a dialogue with "I offered your guy a bribe..." can you?

well...provides for a conversation starter with the Kenyan President

This is just typical American journalism.There was no bribe paid,this was a fee charged to all as set by the Kenya Revenue Authority. If the jounalist cared to check this before publishing unfounded rumors maybe they'd get their job done right. But alas, its Africa and as far as the Western media is concerned anything smacks of corruption.

Isn't it interesting that when corruption like this happens every day to people who travel in dozens of countries around the world, it's ignored by the media. When it happens to the media themselves, they cry to the Senator they are accompanying and turn an everyday occurrence in much of the world into an international incident. Wouldn't it be nice if this same media that's so upset about losing their $2k would write stories that detail the corruption in various parts of the world and inform people so they could choose to not visit these places? Nah. That would require too much...you know...real reporting. There's another issue here which typically keeps this stuff out of the news. Travel writers wouldn't get all those fancy trips to exotic locales if their fellow reporters exposed the underbelly of those nations. And what editor would want to spoil a Sunday travel section puff piece about a far-away exotic locale by mentioning the real and present danger and corruption that would surround such trips?

Its very sad indeed.I dont know whether to sympathize or not with the degree of corruption in Kenya. Even a well known international political figure is not left unscathed by the teeth of corruption in kenya, and it makes one wonder the real pain the common man in kenya must be enduring under the myopic leadership in kenya.

Corruption is a big problem all over the world. It is a disease that cannot be cured over night. Kenyan government is doing all it`s best to get rid of corruption. We are reading in the papers everyday about the pending corruption cases in Kenya. United states of America is no exception when we come to corruption too.How many congressman are in jail for corruption in USA today??
Obama need to give Kenya it`s credit and enjoy his visit because iam sure if his father was from Sudan, he could not dare to step there.
A spade will always be a spade but never a big spoon!

Chicago TV giving bribes and complaining is like raping and complaining. Next time abandon your stuff at the airport and complain to higher authorities

The 1st meaningful thing done as a senator!

The Kenyan government with Kibaki at the helm is a patrimonial and keptocratic government --no ifs, ands or buts about that. It has been a corrupt government from the first day it ascended into office following its win at the polls against the kleptocratic Moi regime. As they say: the more things change, the more they remain the same.

Senator Obama, thank you for standing firm against guys out to jack the media for some $$.

In the so-called third world it's called corruption but in the "first world" it's called customs fees, insider trading, corporate greed/sleaze or whatever other euphemism the 'powers that be' bandy about. What's the difference between the two? There will never be parity in this globalized world unless we start calling things for what they are. In the interests of journalistic integrity I shudder at why the U.S. media is crying foul when foreign journalists, tourists and visitors are accorded the same treatment when entering the U.S. You have dirty underwear, too!!

These reporters sound like two unsuspecting victims of everyday con artists out to take advantage of their novelty. On realization that they have been tricked by witty "expediters" they now make a mountain out of a molehill. Pa..leeease!!!

Having been in Kenya myself for an extended period of time, I know that the whole government system is corrupt, and bribery is a common thing. It is a shame that common people and foreign visitors have to pay the price to line the pockets of the so called authorities.

President Kibaki has been presidng over what is arguably one of the most corrupt governments in Africa. Meanwhile, Kibaki's own Ethics Czar, John Githongo, fled Kenya for Britain fearing for his life after he unearthed several cases of corruption including one that involved the president's own Personal Assistant and also a Minister in the Office of the President.

As this incidence clearly illustrates, it is not just foreigners who are at the mercy of these so called expediters; average Kenyans are preyed upon by officialdom on a daily basis.

Kenya has a long way to go in dealing with the scourge of corruption.

Corruption is a two way process. Both the giver and taker are corrupt.

Otiende,
Githongo was nothing but a British mole working for his foreign master, Sir Edward Clay in an unsuccessful attempt to discredit the Kibaki government because it had refused to dance to the western tune and standing up to neo-colonialist and imperialist policies of the west. (e.g. Think of that ridiculous treaty the Bush government wanted nations such as Kenya to sign protecting the US service men from prosecution for war crimes ... what a load of crap). Reminds me alot of western propaganda aimed at dicrediting leaders like Hugo Chavez ... truth is not everyone buys into that BS.

Section 143 of the Customs and Excise Act of the laws of kenya require that all filming equipment that enters the country be charged a fee of (1%)of the value of the equipment or Kshs.30,000, whichever is less.This were the customs charges that the CBS2 crew paid and official receipts issued.The crew had made prior arrangements with a private agent to assist with the clearance and the fee charged by the agent had nothing to do with the government.
Senator Obama got misled on this one by his american journalists.I wish he never raised this issue with our beloved President MWAI KIBAKI.

what a lie. no one was asked for a bribe. stop spreading falsehoods. its irresponsible journalism

visit this link for accurate report on the incident

http://www.communication.go.ke/media.asp?id=283&media_type=2

Yes, corruption is a two way process, but the fact that it is does not mean that we ought to condone it. Or does it?

Clean up corrupt Kenya, and please instill a culture of accountability in a country where it is clearly lacking.


Mr.Picasso, my suggestion to you would be that you stop obfuscating the facts. Where is the evidence that the former Ethics Czar, Githongo, was a British spy? Well, I, for one, have yet to glean that piece of "factual" info.

Additionaly, as a Kenyan myself, I would rather that we stop looking for excuses and bogeyman in the name of colonialism or imperialism whenever we fall short tackling issues of corruption or matters of governance in general.

Lastly, tell me what Western propaganda has to do with the kleptocratic Kibaki regime in Kenya. Are you implying that rampant corruption in Kenya is a chimera? And what does Hugo Chavez in Venezuela have to do with institutionalized and corrupt bureacracy in Nairobi, Kenya? Hmmm...

President Kibaki should refund the money to the Chicago TV crew and the culprits should be disciplined.

The government charges 1% of the value of any filming equipment entering Kenya as stipulated in Section 143 of the Customs and Excise Act read together with Legal Notice 338 of 1995. These guys were given recipts for what they paid- and i wonder what crazy fellow would issue receipts for a bribe. I wonder what kind of journalism the guys who wrote this story practice. Is that how you report Africa

The government charges 1% of the value of any filming equipment entering Kenya as stipulated in Section 143 of the Customs and Excise Act read together with Legal Notice 338 of 1995. These guys were given recipts for what they paid- and i wonder what crazy fellow would issue receipts for a bribe. I wonder what kind of journalism the guys who wrote this story practice. Is that how you report Africa

obama has been a big disappointment a black colonial governor is still a colonial governor and the press coverage has been typical negavite on africa and full of praises for their sen. may you never come back good redance to bad rubbish

The Government would like to clarify that the charges levied to the television crew that is accompanying American Senator Barack Obama, on his arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Thursday evening of August 24, 2006, are requirements of Kenyan Law.

The crew was charged fees as stipulated by Section 143 of the Customs and Excise Act, as read together with Legal Notice Number 338 of 18th October, 1995.

This part of the law requires that all filming equipment that enters the country (whether for journalism, other television productions or motion picture), be charged a non-refundable fee of one percent (1%) of the value of the equipment or Kshs. 30,000, whichever is lower.

These charges are levied regardless of whether the equipment is to be used for a short period or is to be later shipped out of the country. Crews can opt to have clearing agents assist them with the paperwork. The agents in turn charge their own fees.

The allegations that there was corruption involved in the clearing of the television production equipment of the CBS2 crew are totally unfounded.

Investigations by Government have established that during the levying of fees, no Kenyan Government official or agent working at the airport asked for a bribe or any side facilitation payments. The only monies asked for were those stipulated by law. Official Government Customs receipts were issued to the crew to cater for the customs charges.

Because the crew had arranged before arriving in Kenya to be assisted by a private agent, then, any payments made to the agent were as per the non-government arrangement between the crew and the agent.

Every country has a right to charge customs fees and levies as per its laws. Charging of such fees does not amount to corruption. The paperwork involved may be inconveniencing but that is part of the procedures that need to be followed to ensure accountability and transparency. The crew accompanying Senator Obama was required to fulfill regulations that every other foreign crew undergoes on arrival in Kenya.

DR. ALFRED N. MUTUA,
PUBLIC COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY & GOVERNMENT SPOKESPERSON

I think the over reaction of the media and even the chiming in by Kenyan government officials to this debate is only helping to energize a small misunderstanding that is quickly gaining momentum and having a negative effect on the portrayal of kenya as a tourist destination in the international media.The fact that the entire issue arose in the first place is an indication as to the difficulties encountered by those who are not farmiliar with the kenyan laws, and are often victims of corrupt officials seeking to extort monies from these travelers. For those who have an interest in encouraging tourists to visit kenya to film animals in the parks, and etc this type of attention does not bode well, and perpetuates the negative perceptions many americans have towards africa, and kenya.The kenyan government, should not be defensive here, like Dr Mutua is posturing , simply because the government is not innocent.It is guilty of not elaborating and making simple the process of importing goods into kenya.The complexities involved in importing goods into kenya serves to exacerbate the status quo and hence gives the impression that the bureaucratic quagmire is intentional, and meant to prompt the travelers and importers to give bribe to expedite the transactions.The government is also guilty of many other crimes such as the raiding of the east african standard newspaper to silence the media, and the abusive use of force in implementing unpopular decrees, and these have not helped the image the kibaki administration is trying to defend.Kenya still has terrible roads,delapitated infrastructure and corruption is still in the system.Obama had and still has noble intetions towards kenya, but because he is a luo, the kibaki administration is frustrated by his criticisms, and would wish very much that obama never came to kenya.If obama never went to america and never became a senator, but lived in kenya, I can guarantee the readers that the corrupt kenyan system would have had him killed or jailed ages ago.Another issue raised by the obama visit pertains to dual citizenship issues.The kenyan government has no right to deny kenyans the ability to have dual citizenship.If Obama had asked kibaki for a kenyan passport, after kibaki told obama how he worked with his father in the government, would he have turned obama down?Ridiculous as it is, the most famous kenyan today is not a Kenyan.

Kibaki government is corrupt.Those who support this government are people who have benefitted from stolen public funds. shut the FUCK UP and work like everyone else. we are fed up of corruption and our fight will continue. Kenya belongs to all citizens not just a few.

am a tv producer and when i travel to the neighbouring countries to film am expected to pay these fees. some of the comments posted here are full of emotion by people who think the system is unfair, if you think so carry some filming equipment and land at any airport in the "corrupt free world" otiende shut up

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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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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 25, 2006 7:18 AM.

Sweet Column: Obama gets royal treatment--motorcade stops Nairobi traffic. was the previous entry in this blog.

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

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