Obama's Criticism Upsets Kenyan Gov't

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNSNews.com) - Africa's growth is being affected by the decision of global lenders and donors to compel African countries to liberalize their markets without reciprocal concessions from developed economies, according to U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

"Lack of access for Africa's agriculture and commodities has restricted an important engine of economic growth," Obama told Kenyans in a live televised address during an African tour this week.

"Other issues, such as resource extraction and the drain of human capital, have also been major factors," he said.

Obama also identified corruption and AIDS as some of the biggest challenges to African progress.

"Corruption is not a new problem; it's not just a Kenyan or African problem. It's a human problem, and it has existed in some form in almost every society .. but it is facilitating terrorism, lack of effective response to AIDS, malaria and drought," he said.

The only African-American in the U.S. Senate, Obama pledged to do his part to shape "an intelligent foreign policy that promotes peace and prosperity."

Obama's visit to Kenya was billed as a return to his late father's home, a place he previously visited twice, but before he was elected to the Senate. His trip also took him to South Africa, Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Although the Illinois Democrat received an enthusiastic reception from ordinary Kenyans, the government criticized him for his comments on corruption and ethnic disharmony.

His suggestion that Kenyans has been cheated out of the freedoms they voted for in 2002 -- after autocratic former President Daniel arap Moi stepped down -- was criticized by government spokesman Alfred Mutua.

Mutua also accused Obama, whom he called "immature," of dwelling on "non-issues."

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

During the Kenyan leg of his trip, Obama and his wife were tested for HIV, a gesture aimed at removing the fear and stigma of testing prevalent in Kenyan society.

He criticized South African leaders for their slow response in providing life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs to AIDS patients. South African politicians have been urging patients to instead use traditional medicines and food supplements including garlic and lemon.

See Earlier Story:
US Urges Quick Resolution of Kenya's Political Dispute (Apr. 28, 2004)

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