Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Obama Blended Sentiment and Strategy in Kenya Visit

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Obama Blended Sentiment and Strategy in Kenya Visit

Article excerpt

President Barack Obama wrapped up his two-day trip to Kenya this weekend with a message that was as political as it was personal.

Speaking on Sunday at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi, Mr. Obama sought to strengthen his relationship with the country of his father's birth by challenging Kenya to do the things necessary to become an emerging world power: stamp out corruption and uphold democracy, end discrimination against women and girls, and overcome intolerance for ethnic minorities - a message in line with his administration's broader theme of "helping Africans help themselves," experts say.

"Obama came into office as a symbol for Africa, being the first African-American president, but that generated very high expectations that in turn led to very deep disappointment when it turned out Africa was not the priority for the US that people expected," Joseph Siegle, director of research at the National Defense University's Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, told The Christian Science Monitor's Howard LaFranchi.

Indeed, critics have faulted Obama for failing to offer Africa the kind of big-ticket aid programs that President George W. Bush did with his President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge development initiative, as well as for ceding America's dominant place in Africa to China, Mr. LaFranchi wrote.

But "the administration's goal is to build African capacities and support them rather than try to introduce new programs from the outside," Mr. Siegle said.

To that end, Obama during his speech focused on supporting Kenya's people in efforts to strengthen their own economy and government.

"You can't be complacent and just accept the world as it is," the president told an audience made up largely of young people, who cheered his calls for political and social reform, according to the Washington Post. …

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