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Senator Barack Obama in Kenya

Obama and Odinga: The True Story

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 By Guest Column Paula Abeles  Friday, August 8, 2008

imageThe mainstream media has justified ignoring this story based on a “conspiracy theory” chain email (politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/465) making the rounds from some African missionaries. Politifact.com examined the email—which claims Obama gave $1MM to Odinga’s campaign—and declared it “a pants on fire”. 

However, the underlying (more important issues) are verifiably true. In August and September 2006, Senator Barack Obama traveled to South Africa, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya as a congressional delegation of one (Codel Obama) (“Codel Obama” The Hill 9/7/2006)  While in Kenya, Obama consistently appeared at the side of fellow Luo Raila Odinga (“your agent for change’), who was running for President. (“Senator Rebukes Kenya’s Corruption” Chicago Sun Times 8/29/2006) Because of his African heritage, Obama was treated as a virtual “Head of State” in Kenya While campaigning with Odinga, Obama was openly critical of governmental corruption under President Mibaki –usually a fair, if undiplomatic, criticism from an objective observer.

However, Kibaki’s government has been better than most—-and Odinga has his own corruption issues. (“Loud and Populist, But No Political Outsider” The Guardian 12/29/2007) 

Obama’s partisan support for Odinga was considered so transparent, that the Kenyan Government spokesman, Alfred Matua, complained of political posturing to aid Odinga’s election chances: “It is very clear that the senator has been used as a puppet to perpetuate opposition politics,”(“Walking The World Stage” Newsweek 9/11/06) And, “...we earlier thought he was mature in his assessment of Kenyan and African politics,” Mutua told AFP.“We forgive him because it is his first time in the Senate and he is yet to mature into understanding issues of foreign policy,” he said.”(“Obama’s Kenya Honeymoon Ends Abruptly After Graft Rebuke” 8/29/06)

Subsequently, Ambassador Ogingo Ogego made a public complaint to the US.(“Kenyan Envoy Kicks Off Diplomatic Row” My Africa 9/27/2006) 

Raila Odinga subsequently lost the controversial (probably rigged) presidential election. In what appeared to many—including Human Rights Watch—as a coordinated strategy from the top, (“Violence We Fled was Planned, Say Kenyan Refugees” Reuters 1/26/2008 and “Kenya: Violence Planned Before Poll, Says Report” The Nation 3/18/2008) his Luo supporters (a core of whom call themselves The Taliban”(“Ethnic Gangs Rile Kenyan Slums” Newsweek 1/10/08)) engaged in what US Envoy Jendayi Frazer called “clear ethnic cleansing” (“US Envoy Calls Violence in Kenya ‘Ethnic Cleansing’” USA Today 1/30/2008) of the Kikuyu opposition.
                             
Odinga’s supporters went on a rampage—burning Kikuyu homes and businesses, (“Ethnic Cleansing in Luoland” The Economist 2/7/2008) raping Kikuyu women, and murdering everyone in their path—including at least 50 Christian Kikuyu woman & children who had sought refuge in a church. They burned them alive. (“Mob Burns Kenyans Seeking Refuge In Church” CNN 1/10/2008) 

“We have evidence that ODM [Odinga’s party] politicians and local leaders actively fomented some post-election violence,” Georgette Gagnon, acting Africa director for the New York based Human Rights Watch (HRW), said on Thursday.” (Violence We Fled was Planned, Say Kenyan Refugees” Ibid)

So: who is Raila Odinga that Senator Obama would expend his political capital and risk the goodwill of half the population of Kenya?

Their relationship is unclear. The BBC initially reported that Obama and Odinga were first cousins.(“Odinga Says Obama is His Cousin” 1/8/2008)


The Obama campaign has since denied a familial relationship. Raila Odinga’s father, Oginga Odinga, was leader of the “Kenya People’s Union” and perceived as a “committed socialist” (“Oginga Odinga: Kenya’s Most Persecuted Politician” Kenya: Key Issues 8/21.2002). Odinga Sr. was also the political ally of fellow Luo; Barack Obama Sr. (The Risks of Knowledge (Ohio University Press, 2004) p. 182) 

What we do know about Odinga is not good. A former Minister of Energy, Odinga is reported to have been set up in the oil business by the al Bakri Group and Muammar Quaddafi (“How Rich is Raila-The ODM Kenya Presidential Aspirant?” African Press 4/26/2007)  Abdel Qader Bakri (or- Abdulkader al Bakri) was listed on the infamous “Golden Chain”—an internal Al-Queda list of wealthy Saudi financial sponsors seized by Bosnian police in a Islamic “charity” raid in 2001. (“Terrorist Financing Staff Monograph 9/11 Commission and “The Golden Chain”) According to his website, Odinga was educated in Communist East Germany, (Herder Institute, Leipzig & Otto von Guericke Tech. Institute, Magdeburg) (http://www.raila07.com) Odinga’s eldest son is named “Fidel” (http://www.raila07.com)

Perhaps most troubling is Odinga’s links to Islamic extremists in Kenya.  According to Voice of America and the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, on 8/29/07, Odinga signed a secret agreement (exposed 11/27) with Sheikh Abdullah Abdi of the National Muslim

Leaders Forum (NAMLEF) in which he agreed to institute Islamic law in exchange for Abdi’s support (eakenya.org)—thereby potentially disenfranchising and curtailing the liberties of millions of Christian Kenyan women. Further, he promised that Muslims suspected of terrorism would be safe from extradition—thereby establishing a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists in Kenya.

After the public outcry, Odinga denied signing a secret agreement.  Angry at Odinga’s apparent repudiation, a member of NAMLEF subsequently released the agreement to the press.  Odinga then claimed the document was a forgery, but acknowledged a secret agreement had been signed in exchange for Muslim support.

Finally, under constant pressure, Odinga released what he claimed was the actual document (“Real” MOU) a considerably watered down version of the original; but still anathema to many Christian groups. “In response to the revelations, The Evangelical Alliance of Kenya released a statement in which church leaders said Raila, in both MOUs, ‘comes across as a presumptive Muslim president bent on forcing Islamic law, religion and culture down the throats of the Kenyan people in total disregard of the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of worship and equal protection of the law’” (“Concerns Raised Over Alleged Vow To Enforce Islamic Law in Kenya” Christian Post 12/18/2007) 

To many westerners, the idea of imposing Sharia in a predominantly Christian country may have seemed fanciful. However, Kenya has had Sharia courts for family law (not criminal law)—called Khadi courts—since 1963. 

For the US and “the war on terror”—the most worrisome section—contained in both agreements—concerns extradition (or renditions) of suspected terrorists to the US and
elsewhere. The Kibaki government had been a leading supporter of the US’s efforts to dismantle Al-Queda cells in Kenya (National Commission of Terrorist Attacks on the United States- 9/11 Report) and elsewhere. Raila Odinga made opposition to the government’s crackdown of suspected Al Queda supporters a cornerstone of his campaign “In Kimanthi’s view, ‘only some of the leaders’...were Al Queda sympathizers. The renditions- along with frequent police sweeps on the Swahili coast-had become an emotional issue in the presidential race. Islamic outrage had placed the incumbent, Kibaki, on the defensive and provided Raila Odinga with a tool to rally the support of Kenya’s Muslims.” (“The African Front” New York Times Magazine 12/23/2007)  And, “Our government will not be held at ransom to extradite Muslims to foreign lands”, Odinga told supporters in the coastal city of Mombassa. ‘This government is behaving as if it is still a colony.’” (“Outcome of Kenyan Election Could Impact Anti-Terror Cooperation” CNSNews.com 10/17/2007)

So, how much of a national security concern is this? Well, actually: huge “...proximity to the volatile states…including Somalia and Sudan have made Kenya especially vulnerable, in the views of counterterrorism experts, to the call for jihad. Since the early 1990s, the mosques of Mombasa and other towns have resonated with militant Islamic rhetoric. Radical imams have preached violence against Westerners, attacked the Kenyan government as the lackey of the United States and Israel and called for the implementation of Shariah. Members of the Qaeda cells that blew up the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania…were recruited in mosques near the Indian Ocean beaches [in Kenya]“ (“The African Front” , ibid)

At no point has Senator Obama tried to distance himself from Odinga. Odinga visited Obama on a fundraising tour of the US in 2007 and it is believed that political strategist Dick Morris assisted in Odinga’s presidential campaign- gratis- at Obama’s request (Morris only acknowledged the suggestion came through “mutual friends”). (“Bridges Burned in US, Political Kingmaker Hits Africa”  ABC News 11/20/2007) Odinga has claimed that he and Obama speak regularly and whether this is true or not—the similarities between their campaigns are startling. (“Kenya Tests New Style of Politicking” The Washington Post, 12/22/2007)

In fairness to Senator Obama, after Kenya erupted into violence ( and at the request of Condoleezza Rice), Obama did record a message “. ...calling for calm…” and had “..near daily conversations with the US Ambassador…and Raila Odinga” (“The Demons That Still Haunt Africa” TIME magazine 1/10/2008). Perhaps not surprisingly, President Kibaki apparently declined to take his call. Kibaki’s not the only one no longer filled with enthusiasm for Senator Obama’s brand of diplomacy. As Nicholas Kristof reported (with some surprise) in February: “You might think that all Kenyans would be vigorously supporting Mr. Obama. But Kenya has been fractured along ethnic lines in the last two months, so now Mr. Obama draws frenzied support from the Luos ethnic group of his ancestors, while many members of the rival Kikuyu group fervently support Hillary Rodham Clinton. (“Obama’s Kenya Roots” New York Times 2/24/2008)

Curiously, it has been the Kenyan press (almost alone) who have realized the potential implications: “... this is what may be the most memorable effect of the ODM’s [Odinga’s party] post-election campaign for State House. The longer their protests last, and the less disciplined they are - or the more atrocities like Eldoret [church massacre] are conducted in the party’s name- the more likely Kenya is to be stuck on the front pages of the world’s media and the more embarrassment it will bring to the Senator.” (“The Kiss of Death, How Kenya Could Spoil It For Obama”  KenyaImagine 1/13/2008) 

Clearly, Obama campaigned for someone who is corrupt, ruthless and has financial ties to terrorists. More importantly, Obama campaigned for a candidate who had the stated objective of dismantling US & Kenyan government efforts to root out Al Queda and other terrorist organizations. Organizations that had already caused the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Africans in embassy bombings. Senator Obama’s actions—intentional or not—were in direct conflict with the efforts and interests of US national security. I think this raises serious questions about the judgment, maturity and readiness of Senator Obama.

Respectfully submitted,
Paula Abeles
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