Thursday, August 31, 2006

Barack Obama Certainly No Hero For Kenya

Illinois Senator Barack Obama is considered a rising star in American despite having a last name similar to a certain infamous Saudi Arabian expatriate. The main reason for this seems to be that he is black-or actually half-black with a father from Kenya. Noting that he is the only African-American in the Senate, quota-minded people go out of their way to praise him, not on account of the content of his character -which as far as I know don't seem to be either better or worse than the average U.S. Senator- but on account of the color of his skin.

He was also greeted as a hero when he visited his father's country of origin, Kenya.

But as conservative black columnist Larry Elder points out, Barack Obama certainly don't deserve to be celebrated in Kenya as he is a defender of the destructive U.S. farm subsidy policies that not only hurts American consumers and taxpayers but also hurts farmers in Kenya:

"But a reporter raised an issue about which Obama possesses more influence -- dealing with American protectionism that hurts Kenyan farmers. Why, asked the reporter, do Americans retain farm subsidies and tariffs that prevent Kenyan farmers from competing in the world's biggest market?

Obama's response? He talked about the soybean farmers in Illinois, and said, "It's important to me to be sure I'm looking out for their interests. It's part of my job." Absolutely incredible.

For, in July, the European Union and five nations, including the United States and Japan, met in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the elimination of farm subsidies and agricultural tariffs. After all, in 2002, the World Bank estimated that African exports would increase by almost $2.5 billion if the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada eliminated their agricultural tariffs. This is especially true as to peanuts and tobacco. African farmers run up against farmers in wealthy nations whose laws ensure their success at the expense of Third World farmers.

What should Obama have said? "You're right. America is a rich nation. You are a poor one. Poor nations generally turn into rich ones by starting out with agriculture. So when I get back to Washington, I'm going to tell my colleagues about the devastating real-world effect American protectionism has on poor nations."

Later in his column, Elder makes more good arguments agsinst farm subsidies, so read the whole thing.


Anonymous JOHN ONYANGO said...

Critical Obama loses 'favorite son' status in Kenya

NAIROBI (AFP) - Kenya has stepped up criticism of US Senator Barack Obama, accusing him of insulting the Kenyan people and trivializing their achievements during a visit to his father's homeland.
Two days after abruptly changing its tone on Obama, who had been welcomed as a returning hero but incurred official wrath with blistering criticism of corruption and ethnic divisions, Nairobi launched a new attack on the lawmaker Thursday.

Less than 24 hours after the rising US political star left Kenya to continue an African tour, government spokesman Alfred Mutua blasted Obama for choosing "to dwell on non-issues" in a nationally televised speech on Monday.

"Senator Obama made extremely disturbing statements on issues which it is clear, he was very poorly informed, and on which he chose to lecture the government and the people on how they should manage their country," he said.

Mutua said the government would write a formal protest to the junior senator from Illinois who he suggested had falsely claimed his trip to Africa was intended to "nuture relations between the continent and the United States."

Noting the government had "spared no effort in making his stay and travel ... enjoyable and fulfilling," Mutua said Obama's criticism of President Mwai Kibaki's administration was unfair, unwarranted and unjustified by facts.

He said Obama was wrong in asserting that Rwandan genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga had bought protection in Kenya, that graft had plunged the country into "crisis" and that dangerous tribal divisions were on the rise.

Obama's comment about Kabuga "is an insult to the people of this country," Mutua said, adding he had "ignored" accomplishments in fighting corruption and boosting economic growth from near zero to six percent in three years.

"This cannot be achieved in a country, which Senator Obama says, is experiencing a corruption crisis," he said, before slamming the lawmaker for allegedly "trivializing" Kenya's ethnic harmony and "magnifying tribalism."

"Senator Obama enjoyed the vibrant freedom of expression and wide democratic space in this country during his tour," Mutua said. "Instead of acknowledging this... he chose to dwell on non-issues."

A day after Obama's stinging speech at the University of Nairobi, Mutua dismissed the lone African-American in the Senate and potential Democratic Party presidential nominee as "immature" and an opposition stooge.

But his harsh comments on Thursday marked a new escalation in animosity between the government and Obama, who left Kenya late Wednesday after a five-day visit during which he was accorded a rock star reception.

The son of a Kenyan goat herder-turned-government economist had been greeted by cheering crowds of thousands at each of his stops here, including a visit to his paternal grandmother in his late father's home village.

In his speech, Obama rebuked Kibaki's government for failing to address corruption and said Kenya's democractic progress "is in jeopardy... being threatened by corruption."

"Here in Kenya, it is a crisis, a crisis that is robbing an honest people of the opportunities that they have fought for, the opportunity they deserve," he said, urging the citizenry to demand accountability from Kibaki's government.

8:25 PM  
Blogger S_A_T said...

Yes, what is Obama supposed to say regarding farm subsidies? That he's going to deal with it single-handedly when he returns to the US? Not likely. As an elected Senator, his JOB is to look out for his constituents' best interest. Farm subsidies in the US are not something that a JUNIOR Senator can change on his own. Obama can only tackle what is feasible at this point in his career.

I suppose you'd rather pick on a rising star in US liberal politics than mention how the conservative Republican party has dealt with issues, such as farm subsidies? It's not exactly like the liberals did wonders in YOUR country. That's why they are no longer in office. I was in Sweden for the last election and I'm delighted that change was swept into power. That is exactly what is being aimed for in the US. Obama isn't perfect, but he's far better than the conservative choices we are faced with here.

8:06 PM  
Blogger stefankarlsson said...

SAT: 1) Yes, he should have come out against farm subsidies in other to be deserving of a hero status in Kenya. Otherwise he is at best your typical spineless politician, at worst the enemy of Kenya.
2) Farm subsidies are not in the best interest of the people of Illinois, just a small minority of them.
3) I have critized repeatedly Republican politicians for wanting to maintain farm subsidies.
4) I don't quite understand your last paragraph. In the first and last sentence you seem to attack conservatives, yet in the other sentences you attack liberals. Try to make up your mind.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous David Mutai said...

Stefan Karisson, any comment on that?

12:15 PM  

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