Viewing cable 06NAIROBI4002
Title: KENYAN MEDIA GOES WILD OVER SENATOR OBAMA

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06NAIROBI40022006-09-14 11:33:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Nairobi
VZCZCXYZ0009
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHNR #4002/01 2571133
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 141133Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4276
INFO RUEHXR/RWANDA COLLECTIVE
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 8429
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 4352
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 0297
UNCLAS NAIROBI 004002 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR AF/E, AF/EPS, AF/PD, AND IO 
NSC FOR JMELINE 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: OFDP OPRC OREP PREL PGOV SOCI KDEM KE
SUBJECT: KENYAN MEDIA GOES WILD OVER SENATOR OBAMA 
 
¶1.  Summary:  Media reaction to United States Senator 
Barack Obama?s (D-IL) visit to Kenya was overwhelmingly 
positive and included extensive coverage.  Over-the-fold, 
inside articles and letters to the editor by members of the 
general Kenyan public were almost exclusively positive 
descriptions and analyses of Obama?s key messages on 
fighting tribalism and corruption, and promoting democracy 
and development.  The Government of Kenya (GOK) reacted 
negatively in a small number of advertisements and letters 
but found itself sharply rebuked by the press and public 
for doing so.  End summary. 
 
---------- 
BACKGROUND 
---------- 
 
¶2.  U.S. Senator Barack Obama, whose father was a Kenyan 
citizen, visited the country August 24-30 as part of a 
wider trip through Africa.  He was greeted everywhere in 
Kenya by huge, enthusiastic crowds and a flurry of media 
coverage.  Among other events, his policy speech at the 
University of Nairobi was carried live on Kenyan national 
TV and on radio by BBC East Africa.  The TV viewing 
audience was the largest in recent Kenyan history. 
Anecdotal evidence indicates that rival network staff tuned 
in to watch the live coverage in their newsrooms, as 
reportedly did members of the GOK at State House.  Those 
media houses which did not carry the event live excerpted 
it extensively in television, radio and newspaper coverage. 
Most media coverage can be broken down into specific 
themes: ?Obama?s stand against corruption and tribalism;? 
and how his visit set the standards for the changes which 
?all Kenyans strive for?. 
 
------------------------------------------ 
THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION AND TRIBALISM 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶3.  ?Obama attacks NARC team on corruption and reforms,? 
which appeared in The Daily Nation (independent, left-of- 
center) focused on the Senator?s references that ?(Kenyans) 
were now crying out for a real change and were dissatisfied 
with a Government showing continued tolerance of  high- 
level corruption.? ?Obama terms graft a crisis? (The 
Standard, independent, populist) and ?This is what ails 
Kenya ? Obama? (The People, Investigative, sensationalist) 
are similar examples.  In ?Obama hit nail right on head? 
 
(Kenya Times, KANU party owned), Obama was praised with the 
commentary ?Yet Obama is right: We must fight corruption if 
we are to progress and build on the successes we have 
already achieved?. 
 
--------------------- 
A CATALYST FOR CHANGE 
--------------------- 
 
¶4.  ?Let us pick up the gauntlet Obama has thrown us,? a 
headline appearing in Kenya?s second highest circulation 
newspaper, The Standard, is a case in point wherein the 
media picked up Obama?s themes and urged Kenyans to use his 
visit as a catalyst.  ?The fact, as Senator Obama put it, 
is that the two key challenges that our country faces today 
are surmountable.  All it needs is a critical mass of 
committed citizens who are ready to challenge the status 
quo by speaking out against injustice and mediocrity at 
first sight?.  Similar articles, such as ?If we truly love 
Obama, let?s practice what he says (Kenya Times),? and ?Why 
our politicians should emulate Senator Obama? (The People) 
appeared in the main news and commentary sections of every 
major media house. 
 
---------------------------------- 
GOVERNMENT OF KENYA (GOK) RESPONSE 
---------------------------------- 
 
¶5. The GOK, which is responding with hypersensitive 
defensiveness to all criticism the closer we get to general 
elections in 2007, responded badly to Obama?s key themes. 
In an August 26 advertised statement entitled ?Levying of 
Fees to TV Crew Accompanying Senator Obama Done in 
Accordance with the Law? in the Daily Nation, the GOK 
Spokesman disputed the Senator?s claim that two U.S. 
members of his traveling press had been required to pay 
heavy bribes to get their equipment into Kenya.  The GOK 
stated that the fees paid were legitimate customs duties 
and that the journalists had received official receipts. 
These facts were later disputed by the journalists in 
question. 
 
¶6. In another example, the Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S. in 
Washington sent a letter to the Senator with copies to 
local and international press in which he said ?Your 
(Obama) unprovoked and uncalled for statements were in bad 
taste? referring to Obama?s speech at the University of 
Nairobi. 
 
--------------- 
PUBLIC RESPONSE 
--------------- 
 
¶7. The GOK was quickly and resoundingly refuted by the 
general public and media houses in letters to the editor 
and commentaries.  Public reaction included letters and 
commentaries such as ?Ambassador?s reaction a cheap shot at 
Obama? (Daily Nation) in which the correspondent accused 
the Kenyan Ambassador of negative political interference 
and ?Duties levied on journalists in Obama crew ill- 
advised? (The Standard), in which a Kenyan film maker who 
had traveled around the world with his equipment pointed 
out that the basis of the airport fee was bad law. 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶8. Senator Obama?s visit created overwhelming, though 
realistically temporary, goodwill between post and local 
media houses.  A number of senior media officials and 
personalities praised Embassy PAS for the level of access 
and assistance they received in covering events.  The 
Senator?s comments resonated with post?s own concerns and 
received the kind of coverage press officers normally only 
dream about.  Whether the visit will, in fact, be used by 
the Kenyan people as a catalyst for change remains to be 
seen. 
 
RANNEBERGER