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Sweet scoop: Obama tapes message to Kenyans: "The way forward is not through violence." Developing

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DES MOINES--White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the son of a Kenyan who received a heros welcome when he visited his father's country in 2006, issued a plea Wednesday to the Kenyan people to stop the violence that erupted in the wake of a disputed presidential election.

On the day before the Iowa caucus, the first presidential vote, Obama taped a message while in Davenport, Iowa for the Kenyan people broadcast on the Voice of America.

"Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation, now is not the time to throw that strong democracy away. Now is a time for President Kibaki, opposition leader Odinga, and all of Kenya’s leaders to call for calm, to come together, and to start a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them. Now is the time for this terrible violence to end," he said in the message.

Obama spoke with Rice last night and with Mike Rannenberger, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya this morning. Rannenberg accompanied Obama on much of his Kenyan visit, which included a visit to his father's homestead near the city of Kisumu.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to provide specifics leading up to the Obama taping



The Obama statement to the nation of Kenya

"I have been deeply troubled by the recent news out of Kenya. The instability and tragic violence pose an urgent and dangerous threat to the people of Kenya, and to Kenyan democracy. My family’s thoughts and prayers go out to all who have suffered, and to the families of the victims.

"The Kenyan people have a proud history of supporting the growth of democracy in their country. Their thirst for democracy was on display in this most recent election, when they turned out to vote in record numbers, and in a peaceful and orderly way.

"Despite irregularities in the vote tabulation, now is not the time to throw that strong democracy away. Now is a time for President Kibaki, opposition leader Odinga, and all of Kenya’s leaders to call for calm, to come together, and to start a political process to address peacefully the controversies that divide them. Now is the time for this terrible violence to end.

"Kenya’s long democratic journey has at times been difficult. But at critical moments, Kenyans have chosen unity and progress over division and disaster. The way forward is not through violence – it is through democracy, and the rule of law. To all of Kenya’s people, I ask you to renew Kenya’s democratic tradition, and to seek your dreams in peace."

8 Comments

It is quite overdue for Obama to speak up about the horrific situation in Kenya. But what he needs to be doing is not soft PR pieces like this, but the actual work that is expected of a PRESIDENTIAL candidate, which means calling and talking to Kibaki and Odinga and taking a more active role to curb the violence. Unless he has done this already, then his statement to the Kenyan people is anemic and provides little help. Mr. Obama is extremely popular in Kenya, and for the most part his popularity cuts across ethnic lines, it is time that he acted like the President he claims to be and SHOW the leadership he so fondly speaks about. In parts of Kenya comparisons are already being made to Rwanda, we cannot wait and those in power will be judged by the lives they did or did not safe, and by their bold leadership or their callous indifference.

I agree, Kenya has come too far to let this happen. We here in the U.S are pleading with both Raila and Kibaki to work things out peacefully. Let us not destroy what was built by our forefathers.These are our own children and families that are dying - Regardless of what tribe they are from. It is not their fault that there may have been irregularities. Lets pray for our country. Lets pray for our families.

as i recall, the junior senator from illinois was asked to leave kenya when he and his wife last visited, yes?

"But what he needs to be doing is not soft PR pieces like this, but the actual work that is expected of a PRESIDENTIAL candidate, which means calling and talking to Kibaki and Odinga and taking a more active role to curb the violence."

Unlike John Edwards, who had to send out a press release touting his conversation with Musharraf after the Bhutto assassination, Obama doesn't need to politicize every phone call he makes.

I agree with you Jefferey that these events should not be politicized. However, I am not naive enough to believe that Obama is contacting Kenyan leaders without at least issuing some sort of press statement first. Although talking about the actions you are making as a candidate may "politicize" them (with your reference to John Edwards), it also helps by raising the attention of such issues. Perhaps John Edwards' comments were politicizing the situation in Pakistan, but that is because the situation in Pakistan garnered so much national attention and all of the candidates were already talking about it or being posed questions about it. Conversely, to the best of my knowledge no, I repeat NO candidate has even mentioned the devastation in Kenya, and the attention that Kenya is receiving in the national news depicts the situation as simply "tribal conflict" as opposed to the depiction in Pakistan as a "travesty for democracy," which is how the situation in Kenya should be depicted as well and is how all candidates and all those in power should be urgently addressing it.

I don't know what's going on up there, but if it's a tribal thing, and Obama's people being Luo, he might have a hard time talking to Kikuyus. If it's that bad. I hope not.

soft PR pieces? If Barack was all over the news talking about the problems in Kenya there would be no end to Americans saying that he is exploiting the events for political gain. How the hell do we know what he has done preceding this? does he have to be like John Edwards, go on t.v to say that he had a conversation with this and that president?
where's president Bush, HE is our president!
I am sure Barack's personal connection to Kenya makes him more concerned to do more than make a statement, and i'm sure that his concern for his family in Kenya has urged him to do much more than we are privy to.


For updates on Kenya please check this out; http://www.kenyaunlimited.com/aggregator/

The issue in Kenya is that the election was clearly rigged. Odinga was elected by the people of Kenya. The Kikuyu/Luo matter is an over simplication of the issue.

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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 January 2, 2008 3:09 PM.

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