Barack Obama’s ‘hypocrisy’ remark sets off political storm


OppositionUS President Barack Obama’s remarks that suggested some Kenyan Opposition figures are steeped in hypocrisy have sparked fresh rivalry between the ruling Jubilee alliance and CORD.

President Obama made the remarks during a session with civil society representatives at Kenyatta University on Sunday afternoon after an earlier meeting with CORD leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang’ula and Narc-Kenya’s Martha Karua.

Obama recalled the brief meeting with the Opposition leaders after his riveting speech at Kasarani Stadium, saying he told them, “You have a legally elected government and we are going to work with that government, but we’re also always going to be listening to all elements of Kenyan society.”

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But it is his subsequent statement that seemed to rebuke the doublespeak by at least one of the leaders present at the talks that has touched off the political storm

The Opposition leaders denied ever being criticised, with Jubilee supporters suggesting the statement had exposed their hypocrisy.

“It was funny, though… one of the Opposition leaders – I won’t mention who -was saying, you know, we really need you to press the Kenyan government on some issues.  And I said to him, I remember when you were in government you kept on saying, why are you trying to interfere with Kenya’s business? You should mind your own business,” President Obama said, drawing laughter from his audience.

He continued: “So everybody wants the United States to be very involved when they’re not in power.  And when they’re in power, they want the United States to mind their own business. I think the way that we are going to operate is just to continue to be honest and to promote the kinds of policies and interests that we believe in.”

And Monday, as Raila, Kalonzo, Wetang’ula and Karua convened a press conference to give details of their discussions with President Obama, journalists pinned them down on the controversial remarks by the US leader.

But Kalonzo, who was the first to respond to the issue, said: “We need to look at the bigger picture on who he was referring to. His comments were with a light touch; he was not tongue-lashing.”

And Karua also weighed in: “The meeting should not be reduced to a sentence or a comment from the president.”

Raila never spoke about the specific statement, only reiterating their talks focused on governance concerns including the need to step up the war against graft. Wetang’ula did not speak and Kalonzo said he was unwell.

However, Jubilee MPs claimed people were finally seeing through the Opposition hypocrisy.

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