- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

KOGELO, Kenya (AP) — At the end of a dusty dirt road lined with mango and mimosa trees, Sen. Barack Obama’s Kenyan relatives sat outside on plastic chairs surrounded by chickens and drying corn kernels, listening to radio reports from New Hampshire.

Kogelo, the western Kenyan home village of Mr. Obama’s father, has been spared the political and ethnic violence that has erupted elsewhere in this country following a disputed presidential election. However, it is just a 90-minute drive from a town where torched, ransacked and looted buildings bear testimony to the clashes and turmoil in Kenya. The candidate’s uncle Said Obama said his mind was on his nephew’s success in the U.S.

Said Obama said his nephew “has proved to be a beacon of hope here and shown that, even in difficult circumstances, you can make it to the highest height of achievement with just determination and hard work.”

Mr. Obama’s father, also named Barack Obama, won a scholarship to a university in Hawaii, where he met and married the senator’s American mother. The two separated, and the senator’s father returned to Kenya, where he worked as a government economist until he died in a car crash in 1982.

If Barack Obama were in Kenya today, he would “work with the leadership to bring them to a round table and find a solution to the problems that have been ravaging the country,” his uncle said.

Barack Obama’s forays into diplomacy have touched on Kenya, most recently on Monday, when he spoke with Raila Odinga for about five minutes from New Hampshire, asking the opposition leader to meet directly with President Mwai Kibaki, said the U.S. politician’s spokesman.

“He urged an end to violence and that Mr. Odinga sit down, without preconditions, with President Kibaki to resolve this issue peacefully,” said the spokesman, Bill Burton.

On his most recent visit to Kenya, in August, Mr. Obama made a speech that was televised live in which he touched on themes not normally debated openly in Kenya, criticizing the high-level corruption and tribal politics that have dominated the country since its 1963 independence from Britain. Both issues have played a role in the post-election violence.

“Very many people sat up and listened, but the government didn’t like it,” Said Obama said of his nephew’s speech. “It touched a nerve they didn’t want touched. The corruption is endemic here, and tribalism cannot escape your eyes — you just have to look at the government ministries.”

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