|Gagged: Mama Sarah Obama|
The Kenyan government has barred unapproved contacts between the media and President-elect Barack Obama’s extended family.
Family members will be required to receive permission from the government before making any public statements about their famous relative, according to the Nairobi Star.
“We are doing this because we want to ensure better flow of information,” Athman Said, an under-secretary in the Ministry of Heritage, told the Obama family in Kogelo.
“The government has decided that you should inform its officers who will be based here if you want to address the media.”
Journalists wishing to speak with the family must first be approved by the government.
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This is not the first attempt to block press interest in President-elect Obama’s African connections.
Prior to the U.S. election, WND senior staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi was detained in Kenya while investigating Obama’s close ties to the nation’s prime minister, Raila Odinga.
The Kenyan official who reportedly orchestrated the detention was Odinga himself, according to WND sources inside Kenya.
Corsi, whose recent book, “The Obama Nation,” raised questions about the Democrat when he was a candidate for president, had scheduled a news conference in Nairobi to discuss his discoveries during his visit this fall.
However, he was detained by immigration officials and held without food for much of a day until he was escorted onto his already-booked flight leaving Kenya with the sendoff, “See you in hell.”
Corsi had earlier seen the flow of information stymied by the Obama campaign itself:
“I was able to interview Obama’s uncle, Sayid Obama, the brother of Obama’s father, when I was doing the research for ‘The Obama Nation,'” Corsi said. “But Auma Obama, Obama’s half-sister, declined an interview by telephone, telling me that the Obama campaign had advised the Obama family not to speak with me, either from the United States by phone, or in person in Kenya.”
Two weeks ago, parliament passed the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill, a controversial measure that gives the state power to raid TV stations and newspaper offices, as well as to control broadcast content. The bill awaits the approval or rejection of President Kibaki.
Kenya’s press independence was tested in 2006 when armed and masked police officers raided news offices following a series of exposés about official corruption.
While the latest attempt to embargo news about and from the president-elect’s African family may anticipate passage of the “media gag” bill, economics, tourism and boosterism are also part of the equation.
Under-secretary Said, who informed the Obamas they were muzzled, announced the Obama Cultural Home project, which will include a museum, a gallery and a leadership center in the family’s town of Kogelo. A video featuring Mama Sarah Obama, the president-elect’s step-grandmother, will relate the Obamas’ family history. Said added that the Ministry of Heritage is negotiating with the U.S. government to display Obama’s publications.
The investment in the family’s village so far has caused land prices to double in the past several months. Electicity service has been routed to the community and investors are rumored to be planning hotel construction to serve the tourists expected to travel the “Presidential Heritage Tourism Circuit.”
The proposed heritage center’s siting in Kogelo has not been well received by the entire Obama clan. Some are demanding that the project be built in Kanyadhiang, the ancestral home of Barack Obama’s father before the family moved to Kogelo.
Heritage minister William Ole Ntimama confirmed the government’s intent to invest in the project.
“This is a great opportunity to open up the western tourism circuit and we have asked Treasury to find us some money so that we can roll out a number of projects that will make this a truly memorable cultural site,” Ntimama told the Star.
He took issue, however, with his under-secretary, saying he had not been informed about the press ban.
“It will be surprising if they have done that because it is not right,” said Ntimama. “The Obama family should be allowed to say whatever they want to without any bureaucracy.”
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