May 22, 2013 at 8:28 am 1 comment

Kenyan admiration of Barack Obama is not to be underestimated. Two school’s from Obama’s father’s province of Nyanza have been renamed in his honour, a university is in the works, while Senator beer is now referred to as Obama beer. And there’s a few Obama matatu’s around the place too.

It’s therefore understandable that the decision to leave Kenya off the itinerary of Obama’s second presidential trip to Africa has cut deep. For the last 24 hours, #WhyObamaWillSkipKenya has been the top topic on Kenyan’s twitter feeds. This rebuke from the prodigal son has elicited responses ranging from patriotism, parody to downright peevishness.

That said, many are still happy to believe that the US President remains loyal to Kenya, or is even a born and bred Kenyan (many Republican’s would agree).

Said @kibaara, “he is a president on loan Kenyan [sic] have not recalled him!” @SirGibs concurs: “He is on tour – nobody tours their backyard.”

Some even imagine it might be shy admiration that keeps him away, such as @EvraEzrerProno who wrote “when you love a gal, u dont frequently visit her home.. you hang around their neighbourhood n admire from there.”

And when all the other excuses fail, there’s always superstition. After all, as @bonnyghost points out, “the last US sitting president [Theodore Roosevelt] to visit Kenya finally died of a blood clot”.

The visit in 1909 to what was then British East Africa, was actually just after Teddy had finished up his second and final term of government. Naturally he thought the best way to mark this occasion was by shooting big animals in big quantities, as was the fashion in those days. The heart attack followed 10 years later, but you can’t be too careful.

Other twitter commentators have been less forgiving.

Wilson Mburu, Easy FM News Presenter, tweeted “The US is embarrassed by Kenya’s success in Somalia….where they failed miserably #blackhawkdown”, while @bonifacegitz hypothesised Obama was pulling a no-show “cos he fears what Mombasa dogs will do to his daughters” (This is a family friendly website, you can read more about this sordid tale here)

Many have pointed out there is little benefit to be felt by average Kenyan’s – @dankibet1, for instance, said “weather [sic] he comes to Kenya or not we will still grow economically n there’s no day he will provide food on our tables”. This is no doubt true.

Unfortunately, the real reason is closer to @NgetichRodney‘s estimation – Obama will skip Kenya because “Raila Odinga didn’t win presidency”, or more precisely, because Uhuru Kenyatta did.

Many Western countries, particularly the US and United Kingdom threatened ‘diplomatic consequences’ during the 2013 elections, on the basis that both Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto are facing charges at the International Criminal Court. Initially, the consequences appeared minimal. Both the US and UK ambassador were present at the inauguration.

Nonetheless, signals are starting to be sent. British Prime Minister David Cameron met with Kenyatta in London recently, but refused to be photographed with him. Obama is sending the same message – he won’t be muddied by association with war criminals.

Postscript 30 June 2013

And here, in a live interview, is Obama confirming #WhyObamaWillSkipKenya



Entry filed under: Politics. Tags: , , , , , , .

To Hell’s Gate (and back again) Mombasa Weekend

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Radio Nairobi is written (and photographed) by Jesse Dean, as she spends 12 months in Nairobi



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