Kenyans: 'Apologise for Obama photo'

Noor Ali,Kenya
Friday 29 February 2008 01:00

Kenyan elders have demanded an apology from Washington ahead of a planned protest over the controversial photograph of the American presidential hopeful Barack Obama in traditional Somali dress.

The picture, which appeared on an American website, showed the Democratic front-runner donning a white headdress and robes during a visit in 2006 to the north-eastern town of Wajir.

The photo took centre stage in an increasingly acrimonious race for the White House, with Mr Obama's aides accusing his party rival Hillary Clinton's camp of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" after it was published.

Mr Obama, whose late father was from western Kenya, has fought a whispering campaign by fringe elements who wrongly say that he is Muslim and have even compared his surname to that of al-Qa'ida's leader, Osama bin Laden.

Clinton aides denied they officially approved the picture's release.

The dispute has angered many in Kenya who resent the implication that Mr Obama did anything wrong during his visit. Wajir residents plan to demonstrate after Friday prayers today to show their support for the Illinois senator. Mohamed Ibrahim, who attended a crisis meeting in Wajir yesterday by clan members who hosted Mr Obama, said: "The US government must apologise to us as a clan and the old man. We have been offended and we cannot afford to just watch and stay silent."

He said it was essential that Mrs Clinton "clear her name" too. The old man in question was the retired chief Sheikh Mohamed Hassan.

If there was no apology, the elders would demand the expulsion of US troops based in the town of Garissa.

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