Remarks by President Obama in Kenya

President Obama’s Speech in Kenya July 26,



When I first came to sub-Saharan Africa as President, I made clear my strong belief that the future of Africa is up to Africans.  For too long, I think that many looked to the outside for salvation and focused on somebody else being at fault for the problems of the continent.  And as my sister said, ultimately we are each responsible for our own destiny.    And I’m here as President of a country that sees Kenya as an important partner.  I’m here as a friend who wants Kenya to succeed.
And the pillars of that success are clear:  Strong democratic governance; development that provides opportunity for all people and not just some; a sense of national identity that rejects conflict for a future of peace and reconciliation.


Progress requires that you honestly confront the dark corners of our own past; extend rights and opportunities to more of your citizens; see the differences and diversity of this country as a strength, just as we in America try to see the diversity of our country as a strength and not a weakness.  So you can choose the path to progress, but it requires making some important choices.I want to be very clear here — a politics that’s based solely on tribe and ethnicity is a politics that’s doomed to tear a country apart.  It is a failure — a failure of imagination.


First and foremost, it means continuing down the path of a strong, more inclusive, more accountable and transparent democracy. Democracy begins with a peacefully-elected government.  It begins with elections.  But it doesn’t stop with elections.  So your constitution offers a road map to governance that’s more responsive to the people — through protections against unchecked power, more power in the hands of local communities.  For this system to succeed, there also has to be space for citizens to exercise their rights. And we saw the strength of Kenya’s civil society in the last election, when groups collected reports of incitement so that violence could be stopped before it spun out of control.  And the ability of citizens to organize and advocate for change — that’s the oxygen upon which democracy depends.

As in America — and so many countries around the globe — economic growth has not always been broadly shared.  Sometimes people at the top do very well, but ordinary people still struggle.
Because corruption holds back every aspect of economic and civil life.  It’s an anchor that weighs you down and prevents you from achieving what you could.  If you need to pay a bribe and hire somebody’s brother — who’s not very good and doesn’t come to work — in order to start a business, well, that’s going to create less jobs for everybody.
If someone in public office is taking a cut that they don’t deserve, that’s taking away from those who are paying their fair share.

Now, we’re also going to work with you to pursue the second pillar of progress, and that is development that extends economic opportunity and dignity for all of Kenya’s people. Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition. It holds you back.  There’s no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence.  There’s no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation.  There’s no place in civilized society for the early or forced marriage of children.  These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.  These are issues of right and wrong — in any culture.  But they’re also issues of success and failure.  Any nation that fails to educate its girls or employ its women and allowing them to maximize their potential is doomed to fall behind in a global economy.

Now, this leads me to the third pillar of progress, and that’s choosing a future of peace and reconciliation.  Extremists who prey on distrust must be defeated by communities who stand together and stand for something different. And the most important example here is, is that the United States and Kenya both have Muslim minorities, but those minorities make enormous contributions to our countries.  These are our brothers, they are our sisters.  And so in both our countries, we have to reject calls that allow us to be divided.