16 July 2018

Kenya: Obama Commends Kenya Unity Effort, Urges Sustained Reforms

Photo: Justus Ochieng/Daily Nation
Barack Obama and his half sister, Dr Auma Obama, at Kogelo, Siaya County on July 16, 2018.

Nairobi — Visiting former United States President Barack Obama has hailed efforts by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga to foster unity in the country following a tempestuous election in 2017.

The ex-US President said the resolve by the two leaders would spur economic growth in the country and unlock its potential which was held captive during the chaotic electioneering period.

"The good news is that Kenya has a new Constitution, a new spirit of investment and entrepreneurship," Obama said on Monday when formally opened the Barack Obama Senior Centre for Knowledge, Learning and Excellence in Kogelo, Siaya County.

"Despite some of the tumultuous times that seem to attend every election, we know have a President and a major Opposition leader who've pledged to build bridges and made specific commitments to work together," he added.

Obama however urged a conscious effort in the war against graft which he said continues to impede economic transformation of the country.

He singled out corruption and negative ethnicity as key hindrances to Kenya's growth urging leaders to face the two vices with undying resolve.

"What we see here in Kenya is all part of an emerging, confident, and self-reliant Africa but we know that real progress depends on addressing the challenges that remain. It means rooting out corruption that weakens civic life," Obama remarked.

He challenged the government to ensure equitable distribution of resources and education for all.

"We must make sure that economic growth reaches everyone and not just a few people at the top, it must be broadly shared across regions," the 44th US President pitched.

"We need to guarantee educational opportunities to everybody, not just our boys but also our girls because the nation that gives our daughters the same opportunities as our sons is more likely to succeed," he urged.

Obama who arrived in the country on Sunday lauded his step-sister, Auma Obama, for the efforts she was making to empower the youths through the Auma Obama Foundation through which the Barack Obama Senior Centre was built.

"I could not be prouder of what my sister has accomplished. It makes us who are Obamas, or claim to be Obamas extraordinarily proud," he said.

Obama explained his failure to visit his ancestral home in Kogelo when he visited as President in July 2015 when Kenya co-hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit due to logistical challenges.

"Three years ago I visited Kenya as first sitting American President to come from Kenya. It was a little bit harder to get here because my plan didn't fit the tarmac up here," he observed.

In her remarks Auma pledged to continue mentoring youths under her initiative - the Auma Obama Foundation - popularly known as Sauti Kuu Centre.

She urged locals to strive to enhance their lives and desist from seeking for handouts from political leaders.

"We want to give the young people options, alternatives and a perspective through this centre so that they can improve their lives and know that they've done it for themselves," Auma noted.

Leaders at the event included host Governor, Cornel Rasanga and his Kisumu counterpart Anyang Nyong'o, Odinga's spouse Ida, US Ambassador Robert Godec, former lawmaker and ambassador United Nations Development Fund for Women Phoebe Asiyo, and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi.

In her remarks at the function, Asiyo called upon President Obama to initiate a program that would tackle the menace of water hyacinth in the lake-side region.

Obama is expected to depart for South Africa later on Monday where he will give a keynote address at a Nelson Mandela memorial event.

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