NAIROBI, Kenya – U.S. President Barack Obama told Kenyans on Sunday that their country is at a crossroads and urged them to “choose the path to progress” by continuing to root out corruption, confront terrorism and be more inclusive of women and girls.
Obama urged Kenyans – particularly its future leaders – to deal with corruption and tribal conflict, create opportunity for all, improve education and health care, treat women better and confront the threat of terrorism.
He said corruption was not unique to Kenya but described the pervasiveness of it in Kenya as a “cancer” that is holding back every aspect of economic and civic life like an “anchor.”
Obama noted Kenya’s booming economy – it has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa – and asked that the country’s economic gains be shared more broadly with all Kenyans.
This doesn't have to mean socialism - it could simply mean improving health, justice, education and other societal infrastructures. It could mean setting a livable minimum wage thereby giving incentive to work.
He urged an end to old tribal and ethnic divisions that he said are “doomed to tear our country apart” and urged Kenya’s leaders, as he did President Uhuru Kenyatta during their meetings on Saturday, to confront the terrorist threat posed by al-Shabab militants based across the border in Somalia. The group has killed scores in Kenya in brazen attacks carried out in the past two years.
Obama also pressed for more tolerance and respect of women and girls, calling for an end to violence against women, forced marriages for girls who should otherwise be attending school, sexual assault and the tradition known as “genital mutilation.”
There is, unfortunately, a conflict here in that these traditions of child brides and FGM and respect for women and girls will be hard to change, particularly when you are attempting to end 'tribal conflicts'. But they are necessary changes if Kenya is ever to be anything but a 3rd world country. And certainly they are necessary changes if Kenya is ever to be blessed by God.
“These traditions may date back centuries. They have no place in the 21st century,” he said.
Kenyatta has taken steps to tackle corruption by suspending four Cabinet secretaries and 16 other senior officials amid an investigation into allegations of dishonesty. But the suspensions have been met with skepticism by the public because in the past, suspensions of senior officials haven’t resulted in anyone being convicted of a crime. Some officials even returned to their jobs before investigations were complete.
Kenyatta has been under public pressure to act following reviews of his 2-year-old regime, published in local media by opposition and economic experts, that claimed his administration is more corrupt than previous governments.
If there is any country in Africa where corruption isn't rampant, I would like to know where it is. Poverty breeds corruption which breeds poverty, which breeds corruption, which... Some country needs to step up and lead Africa out of the darkness of corrupt officials. With Kenya's growing economy, they have a great opportunity to be that country, to lead Africa; but it will take a courageous leader. Is Kenyatta that leader?