Sen. Barack Obama
urged Kenyans during a policy speech Monday to
test themselves for HIV and to take control of their
country's destiny by opposing corruption and ethnic
divisions in government at the main university in his
Obama warned that
Kenya and other African nations will never thrive if
their citizens cannot count on the government to deliver
services fairly, regardless of their tribal background
or ability to pay bribes, during his address to about
600 people at the state-run University of Nairobi.
"In the end, if
the people cannot trust their government to do the job
for which it exists--to protect them and to promote
their common welfare--all else is lost," he
Obama is winding
down his trip to Africa, which began August 18 in South
Africa. On Tuesday he will visit the world-famous Masai Mara
game reserve in southern Kenya, followed by trips to
the countries of Djibouti and Chad.
Democrat has received the warmest and largest welcome in
Kenya, where Kenyans have claimed Obama as one of their own
even though he was raised primarily in Hawaii and did
not know his Kenyan father well.
This is Obama's
third visit to Kenya but his first since being elected
the only U.S. black senator in 2004.
On Monday he
acknowledged the irony of a politician from Chicago, known
for its long history of public corruption, talking about
good government. But while corruption is universal, he
said, in Kenya it amounts to "a crisis that's robbing
an honest people of opportunities they have fought
officials did not immediately respond to Obama's comments
Monday. The senator had a closed-door meeting with President
Mwai Kibaki last week.
Kenya has been
roiled for years by widespread allegations of corruption.
Kibaki won elections in 2002 promising to root out the
corruption that had become endemic under the 24-year
rule of his predecessor, President Daniel arap Moi.
But now he too is facing mounting pressure to respond to
allegations of high-level corruption.
administration has pointed to its efforts to root out
corrupt judges and ongoing investigations into
high-level wrongdoing. Officials also have said that
the government alone cannot fight corruption and asked
individuals and companies to stop paying bribes.
Obama said Monday
that the Kenyan government must reduce patronage jobs
and increase salaries for the remaining employees to reduce
temptation for taking bribes. It also needs clear laws
and regulations so that individual bureaucrats cannot
twist the rules to their own ends, Obama said.
ethnic-based tribal politics have to stop," he said to
applause from the audience of students, university staff,
business leaders, and others.
Obama said his
father, a Kenyan government economist, butted heads with
government officials over ethnicity and patronage and ended
up losing his government job. Obama said his father
also held outdated views about the roles of women and
as a result never enjoyed a strong family life. His
father died in a car crash in 1982, leaving three wives, six
sons, and a daughter.
"In many ways, my
family's history reflects some of the contradictions
of Kenya and indeed the African continent as a whole,"
also has been a theme of Obama's visit. On Saturday he
and his wife, Michelle, underwent public HIV tests at a
hospital in the city of Kisumu in an effort to reduce
the public stigma associated with HIV testing.
Obama and his
family also traveled Saturday to Nyangoma-Kogelo, a tiny
village in the rural west where his father grew up. Obama
stopped at his father's grave and also visited his
85-year-old grandmother. (AP)