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Raila meets US President, and speak on governance

BUSINESS
By | Sep 25th 2009 | 3 min read
By | September 25th 2009
BUSINESS

By Standard team

US President Barack Obama met Prime Minister Raila Odinga in New York and discussed the need for urgent reforms in Kenya.

Their talks came only hours before the US ambassador in Kenya warned that it would bar at least 15 top government officials including ministers and MPs from setting foot in the country.

Contrary to reports in some Kenya media that had indicated that the PM would not meet Obama, Mr Raila met Mr Obama twice on Wednesday, first at a luncheon for heads of State and later at a dinner.

The PM’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said Obama reached out to Raila at the luncheon where they spoke briefly.

In the brief exchange of pleasantries, Obama asked Raila to ensure they exchanged notes later in the day, according to Mr Onyango.

General Assembly

Raila, who was in New York to represent President Kibaki at the 64th United Nations General Assembly, was accorded more time by the world’s most powerful leader at the dinner where they held discussions regarding the Kenyan situation.

It was a rare moment for Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who met United States President Barack Obama twice in New York. On the left is Mrs Ida Odinga and US First Lady Michelle Obama during a photo op at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Wednesday. [PHOTO: Lawrence Jackson/ Official White House]

"Obama is very passionate about what is happening in Kenya and is interested in supporting the reform process," Onyango said by telephone from New York.

"It was a tense moment. The security was tight and our crew of photography was not allowed in with cameras. We had to rely on the State Department to secure a few pictures before they referred us to a website where we retrieved the images," Onyango said.

Earlier in the week, a local daily published reports on how Raila was dropped from a heads of State luncheon that was to be hosted by Obama.

Politicians close to Raila interpreted the diplomatic tiff to be arising from their PNU rivals, who were trying to block him from meeting Obama.

Last night, Onyango confirmed that the two meetings with Obama were fruitful and in the discussions, the US President — whose father was Kenyan — pledged support for the country if the Grand Coalition remained committed to implementing reforms under Agenda Four.

Raila, accompanied by his wife Ida, met and posed for pictures with Michelle after the dinner hosted by Obama.

Face to face

On Monday, The Standard exclusively published a story on how Raila had secured the rare appointment with world’s most powerful leader, after the local daily alleged that the PM would not come face to face with Obama.

On Wednesday, the same daily published another report discounting the possibility that Obama and Raila would meet face to face.

The media house published caricatures of the Prime Minister allegedly blocked from accessing the White House.

Onyango yesterday described the media reports as aimed at throwing the credibility of the PM into disrepute.

"The truth will always be known. At last the meetings have helped clarify issues. The US is seeking to see reforms implemented in the country to save it from a repeat of the kind of chaos witnessed after the last General Election," said Onyango.

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