IBD reported that "[a]mid" acts of violence, Obama "phone[d] Odinga to voice his support" -- but not that he said he urged negotiation

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

Summary: In an editorial, Investor's Business Daily wrote that after Kenyan politician Raila Odinga lost his country's presidential election in late 2007, "angry Odinga supporters crying fraud sparked riots that resulted in some 1,500 deaths. Amid his ancestral country's civil unrest, [Sen. Barack] Obama took time out from the campaign trail to phone Odinga to voice his support." However, while IBD claimed that Obama phoned Odinga to "voice his support," Obama and his campaign have reportedly said that he pressed Odinga to conduct unconditional negotiations to end the violence during the phone conversation, which was reportedly approved by the State Department.

In an August 18 editorial, Investor's Business Daily wrote that after Kenyan politician Raila Odinga lost his country's presidential election in late 2007, "angry Odinga supporters crying fraud sparked riots that resulted in some 1,500 deaths. Amid his ancestral country's civil unrest, [Sen. Barack] Obama took time out from the campaign trail to phone Odinga to voice his support." But while IBD claimed that Obama phoned Odinga to "voice his support," Obama and his campaign have reportedly said that Obama called Odinga to press him to conduct unconditional negotiations to end the violence. Further, Obama's phone call was reportedly approved by the State Department.

Obama reportedly said of his phone conversation with Odinga: "Obviously he believes that the votes were not tallied properly. But what I urged was that all the leaders there, regardless of their position on the election, tell their supporters to stand down, to desist with the violence and resolve it in a peaceful way in accordance with Kenyan law." Similarly, the Associated Press wrote on January 8 that "Obama's advisers said the Illinois senator has been working the phones for the past week to urge an end to the bloodletting. He spoke to Odinga for about five minutes Monday before going into a rally in Lebanon, N.H." The AP quoted Obama spokesman Bill Burton stating that during the call, Obama "urged an end to violence and that Mr. Odinga sit down, without preconditions, with President [Mwai] Kibaki to resolve this issue peacefully.''

Further, Obama's advisers reportedly said at the time that Obama's efforts to help resolve the violence in Kenya were coordinated with the State Department. The AP reported in a January 2 article: "Obama's campaign said the candidate had spoken to [Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice late Monday about the situation in Kenya. The call was confirmed by the State Department, which provided no details because it did not want to involve Rice in politics." The Chicago Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet wrote on January 3: "As Kenya boiled, Obama reached out to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to discuss the situation. I'm told it was Obama's idea to put out the statement." The January 8 AP article about Obama's conversation with Odinga reported that "Obama was coordinating his efforts with the State Department, his advisers said. He discussed the situation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Jan 1. The following day Obama recorded a statement with Voice of America after a canvass kickoff in Davenport, Iowa."

Additionally, IBD wrote: "Like Obama's father, Odinga was a member of the Luo tribe of Kenya. His son, Raila Odinga, ran for president in 2006. That year, Obama traveled to Kenya and appeared with Odinga at rallies where he criticized the pro-U.S. government Odinga wanted to oust." Obama, who PolitiFact.com wrote "has remained neutral in Kenyan politics, and did not support Odinga during his trip," criticized the Kenyan government during the trip for failing to adequately address public corruption. For instance, in an August 28, 2006, speech, Obama said: "Like many nations across this continent, where Kenya is failing is in its ability to create a government that is transparent and accountable. One that serves its people and is free from corruption. ... But while corruption is a problem we all share, here in Kenya it is a crisis - a crisis that's robbing an honest people of the opportunities they have fought for -- the opportunity they deserve."

But while IBD singled out Obama for "criticiz[ing]" a "pro-U.S. government," the U.S. State Department has also faulted the Kenyan government for failing to take necessary steps to eliminate public corruption. For example, in the "Background Note: Kenya" profile it issued in June, the State Department wrote:

Under the first presidency of Mwai Kibaki, the [National Rainbow Coalition, a group of political parties] promised to focus its efforts on generating economic growth, improving and expanding education, combating corruption, and rewriting the constitution. The first two goals were largely met, but progress toward the second two goals was limited.

[...]

In early 2006, revelations from investigative reports of two major government-linked corruption scandals rocked Kenya and led to resignations, including three ministers (one of whom was later re-appointed). In March 2006, another major scandal was uncovered involving money laundering and tax evasion in the Kenyan banking system. The government's March 2006 raid on the Standard Group media house conducted by masked Kenyan police was internationally condemned and was met with outrage by Kenya media and civil society. The government did not provide a sufficient explanation. No one has been held accountable.

The December 2007 elections were marred by serious irregularities, and set off a wave of violence throughout Kenya.

The State Department's Office of Investment Affairs wrote in its "2007 Investment Climate Statement -- Kenya": "Pervasive corruption has been a major reason for disinvestments in Kenya. ... Corruption and insecurity remain the major challenges for the current government."

Several international non-government organizations have also noted Kenya's problem with public corruption. The 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index, released by Transparency International, ranked Kenya 150 out of 179 countries for corruption (from least to most corrupt) and assigned Kenya a 2.1 rating out of 10. In 2006, Kenya was ranked 142 out of 163 countries and received a 2.2. rating. Human Rights Watch's World Report 2008 stated of Kenya: "In 2007, the human rights situation was shaped by the run-up to the December elections and the persistent corruption that has plagued the nation for decades. ... Action to address Kenya's longstanding problems with corruption continue to be desultory."

From the August 18 Investor's Business Daily editorial:

Like Obama's father, Odinga was a member of the Luo tribe of Kenya. His son, Raila Odinga, ran for president in 2006. That year, Obama traveled to Kenya and appeared with Odinga at rallies where he criticized the pro-U.S. government Odinga wanted to oust.

When he lost the election the next year, despite Obama's tacit endorsement, angry Odinga supporters crying fraud sparked riots that resulted in some 1,500 deaths. Amid his ancestral country's civil unrest, Obama took time out from the campaign trail to phone Odinga to voice his support.

After weeks of violence, Odinga was granted a power-sharing deal. He's now acting prime minister.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts
Network/Outlet
Investor's Business Daily
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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