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Cablegate: U.S. Election Day in Kenya

VZCZCXRO9962
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHNR #2588/01 3181239
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131239Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7584
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 6158
RUEHKH/AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM 2212
RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 0303
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 3031
RUEHDJ/AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 5447

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 002588

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/E
LONDON, PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO KDEM PGOV KE
SUBJECT: U.S. ELECTION DAY IN KENYA

1. Summary. Kenyans see President-elect Barack Obama as their
"favorite son," and are delighted by his election. The Ambassador
hosted an early morning November 5 event attended by over 2,000
Kenyans to watch the results, and issued a statement highlighting
the transparent and peaceful nature of the process (text para 8).
The event was covered live by the Kenyan media. Virtually all
commentators and editorials have emphasized the transparent and
orderly nature of the U.S. elections as a lesson that Kenyans must
take to heart as the country moves ahead with fundamental electoral
reform. End summary.

2. President-elect Obama is seen as Kenya's favorite son (since his
father was from Kenya, and there are Obama family members here), and
there was enormous interest in the U.S. electoral process. The
campaign, starting with the primaries, was intensively covered by
all the Kenyan media. Without knowing better, one could have
imagined that the election was taking place here. During the weeks
leading up to Election Day the major papers were dominated by
stories about the presidential campaign.

3. The Ambassador hosted a large event beginning at 5 am on November
5 to watch the U.S. election results. Over 2,000 Kenyans attended,
many of them specially invited students from dozens of high schools
and universities. (During the months preceding the election,
Mission speakers reached directly over 6,000 high school and
university students throughout the country to talk about the U.S.
electoral process.) All those attending were astounded by how
rapidly the election results were reported, and the final result
known. In contrast, the reporting of the results in the December 27
Kenyan elections strung out over several days, with lack of
transparency in the vote tallying process.

4. Kenyans were very impressed by Republican candidate McCain's
gracious concession speech and, in essence, by the general civility
of the entire U.S. electoral process. The entire event at the
residence was broadcast live by all the major media. In a very real
sense, all Kenya watched the results and witnessed the democratic
process with us. Kenyans across the political, social, and ethnic
spectrum have expressed appreciation for us having hosted such a
public event, and many noted how educational it was for the next
generation of voters.

5. The other main center of attention in Kenya on election day was
the Nyanza province homestead of "Granny Sarah," who raised Obama's
father. Obama's half-sister Auma and other family members were
gathered there to watch the results. There was extensive
international media coverage at the homestead. The Kenyan
government provided appropriate security.

6. As Kenyans watched the electoral returns come in, the atmosphere
was electric. Once the results were known, Kenyans quickly started
celebrating the election of President-elect Obama. President Kibaki
declared November 6 a national holiday in honor of Obama's victory.
On November 6 various prayer meetings were convened all over the
country to pray for the President-elect (from Nairobi to the coast
to Nyanza in the west). Many matatu public transportation vans flew
American flags. Prime Minister Odinga issued a statement from
China, where he was attending an international conference, and Vice
President Musyoka came by the Ambassador's election results watching
event to offer congratulations. The Kenyan media is giving
extensive coverage to the transition underway in the U.S., citing it
as an example Kenyans should emulate.

7. Virtually all commentaries and editorials have emphasized that
Kenyans must take to heart the lessons of the transparent,
accountable, and peaceful nature of the U.S. election. All have
pointed out that Kenyans should absorb these lessons in order to
carry out the fundamental electoral reforms envisaged in the
national coalition accord. (Electoral reform is moving forward in
the Parliament, and the U.S. electoral process is having a positive
impact.)

8. Begin Text of Ambassador's remarks. We welcome the exceptional
interest and enthusiasm manifested by the Kenyan people in the U.S.
electoral process. The strong and growing partnership between the
United States and Kenya is in fact based on shared democratic
values. The U.S. electoral process reflected key elements of a
strong democratic process. The political campaign was characterized
by open and frank discussion, including through debates. The
campaign was focused on issues. The electoral process involved all
Americans in a way reflecting the diversity that is one of the great
strengths of the United States. The process was peaceful, and
voting was conducted in a manner to ensure transparency and

NAIROBI 00002588 002 OF 002


accountability. Finally, the constitution and rule of law ensure
that the will of the majority will be respected, while ensuring that
the rights of all will be protected. We value the friendship of the
Kenyan people, and assure them that the United States will continue
to stand by their side as they work to implement fundamental reforms
in order to strengthen democratic institutions and the well-being of
all Kenyans. End text.
RANNEBERGER

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