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Experts warn against inflated expectations after Obama's visit

28 July 2015, 08:07

Nairobi - President Obama's three-day visit to Kenya to attend the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit, though rich in symbolism, may not offer lasting solution to Kenya's endemic challenges, experts warned on Monday.

Obama was among high profile guests who attended the U.S. led business summit that took place in Nairobi from July 25 to 26.

Prior to Obama's first visit to his ancestral homeland as a sitting U.S. President, there was palpable excitement among Kenyan elite and ordinary citizens.

Experts from diverse fields, however, were unconvinced that President Obama's visit to Kenya would be a game changer based on historical evidence about American double standards in its dealing with African countries.

Gerishon Ikiara, a diplomacy scholar at the University of Nairobi, while lauding Obama's maiden visit to Kenya, warned his compatriots against inflated expectations from the U.S. government.

During an interview with Xinhua, Ikiara noted that bilateral relationship between America and African states are not only laden with obscurity, but have often not trickled benefits to ordinary people.

"President Obama's visit to Kenya was of course a validation of our great leap forward. However, his first allegiance is to American people and we are often an afterthought," Ikiara remarked.

Kenya and the United States signed a range of bilateral agreements during President Obama's three-day visit to the country.

Read Also: Leaders told to learn from Obama's lectures

Despite his Kenyan roots, President Obama has not radically deviated from his predecessors in dealing with the nation.

Ikiara noted that Obama has only continued the skewed policies of his predecessors that focus on American interests at the expense of tangible benefits for ordinary citizens.

"There have been cases in the past where promised assistance was withheld or delayed with the U.S. government citing corruption and absence of economic and political reforms," Ikiara told Xinhua.

Ikiara noted that policy makers are fully aware it would be suicidal to ignore other bilateral partners like China because of a single visit of an American leader.

"We have tried to strike a balance in our diplomatic endeavors. While the West is a critical player to our development, the new partners from the east have proved more practical and transformative," said Ikiara.

Patrick Maluki, a Lecturer at University of Nairobi's School of International Relations, told Xinhua Kenya has gained immensely from engagement with China.

"In what looks like a win for China, the US President addressed the Kenyan public in a stadium built through Chinese aid," Maluki intoned.

Read Also: Hopes in Kenya that Obama's visit leaves more than words

China's footprint in Kenya has been visible in key sectors like transport and communications infrastructure, energy, health, education, trade and culture.

Maluki noted that Kenya and the entire Sub-Saharan African region stands to gain more from Chinese financial and technical assistance that is both reliable and has no strings attached.

Ikiara regretted that despite the hype, America has not been providing significant assistance to help solve Africa's critical challenges like poverty, disease and insecurity.

"There has been a considerable tension between Kenya and the United States over the mode of channeling aid. The U.S. channel bulk of the aid to civil society groups which the Kenyan government feels are bent on destabilizing the country," Ikiara remarked.

Ikiara regretted the African-American community continues to suffer gross injustices despite the passage of the civil right act.

"The recent killings of young black men by police demonstrate that racial relations in the United States are still hostile and far from what is expected of a 200 year old democracy," said Ikiara.

Kenyan experts noted that despite its super power status, America has not been forthcoming when it comes to implementing projects that benefit people at the grassroots.

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- Xinhua


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