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Obama: Kenya Is at ‘Crossroads’



Monday, July 27, 2015
Nairobi, Kenya — Declaring Kenya at a “crossroads” between promise and peril, President Barack Obama on Sunday pressed the nation of his father’s birth to root out corruption, treat women and minorities as equal citizens, and take responsibility for its future.

Closing his historic visit with an address to the Kenyan people, Obama traced the arc of the country’s evolution from colonialism to independence, as well as his own family’s history here. Today, Obama said, young Kenyans are no longer constrained by the limited options of his grandfather, a cook for the country’s former British rulers, or his father, who left to seek an education in America.

“Because of Kenya’s progress — because of your potential — you can build your future right here, right now,” Obama told the crowd of 4,500 packed into a sports arena in the capital of Nairobi. But he bluntly warned that Kenya must make “tough choices” to bolster its fragile democracy and fast-growing economy.

Obama’s visit here, his first as president, captivated a country that views him as a local son. Thick crowds lined the roadways to watch the presidential motorcade speed through the city Sunday, some climbing on rooftops to get a better view. The audience inside the arena chanted his name as he finished his remarks.

The president left Kenya Sunday afternoon, pausing longer than normal atop the stairs to Air Force One to wave to the crowd, a huge grin on his face. He arrived two hours later in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, where he met with diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in the evening.

The bulk of Obama’s address was a candid commentary on the East African nation’s future. He spent considerable time warning about the risks of government corruption, calling it an “anchor” that could weigh down the country’s promising future.

“Too often here in Kenya corruption is tolerated because that’s how it’s always been done,” he said. “Here in Kenya, it’s time to change habits.”