Kenyan group vows to defend Obama from smears

NAIROBI Fri Jun 6, 2008 2:05pm EDT

Mwangi Mukami speaks during a news conference in Nairobi June 6, 2008. Mukami is a member of a group of young Kenyans supporting Barack Obama that have launched what they called a worldwide campaign on Friday to defend the likely U.S. Democratic presidential nominee from smears by opponents. Mukami, said they would counter what he described as a whispering campaign questioning Obama's politics, patriotism and religious beliefs that was started online by the senator's opponents but had even spread to some churches in Kenya. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna

Mwangi Mukami speaks during a news conference in Nairobi June 6, 2008. Mukami is a member of a group of young Kenyans supporting Barack Obama that have launched what they called a worldwide campaign on Friday to defend the likely U.S. Democratic presidential nominee from smears by opponents. Mukami, said they would counter what he described as a whispering campaign questioning Obama's politics, patriotism and religious beliefs that was started online by the senator's opponents but had even spread to some churches in Kenya.

Credit: Reuters/Antony Njuguna

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NAIROBI (Reuters) - A group of young Kenyans supporting Barack Obama launched what they called a worldwide campaign on Friday to defend the likely U.S. Democratic presidential nominee from smears by opponents.

Obama, whose late father was from Kenya, made history on Tuesday when he became the first African-American to win a U.S. major-party presidential nomination. The Illinois senator will face Republican John McCain at the general election in November.

Peter Mbae of Sen. Barack Obama Worldwide Supporters said the new network would organize online forums, public meetings and demonstrations to raise awareness of Obama's policies.

"We're going to march in all the major (Kenyan) towns, and then in all the African cities," he told reporters in Nairobi.

"Then we reach the whole world. It's very easy because it's a global village, and we can do things the technological way."

Kenyans have rejoiced in Obama's victories so far.

Many in the east African country adore him the way the Irish idolized former U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s -- as one of their own who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Mbae's colleague, Mwangi Mukami, said they would counter what he described as a whispering campaign questioning Obama's politics, patriotism and religious beliefs that was started online by the senator's opponents but had even spread to some churches in Kenya.

"Being a self-made man from a very shaky beginning, Sen. Obama is an inspiration of hope to millions in the USA and the world," he said. "We want to ensure that what Sen. Obama stands for is not diluted by cheap propaganda."

The network was not funded by Obama's campaign, he said.

Many on the world's poorest continent hope an Obama victory in November would mean greater U.S. help in their plight. But some Kenyan commentators have counseled caution.

"Will he overcome the strong lobby groups that control American foreign policy and that have very little time for Africa?" the Daily Nation newspaper asked in an editorial.

"Kenyans, and Africans in general, can only pray that Obama's 'Change' agenda will sell."

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

(For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)

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