(Recasts, adds details, quotes)
By Daniel Wallis
NAIROBI Feb 29 Kenyan elders may impose a fine
on U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, payable in
livestock, after a photo of her rival Barack Obama in robes
dragged their people into the race for the White House.
The picture, which appeared on a U.S. Web site, showed the
Illinois senator in a white headdress and traditional Somali
attire during a 2006 visit to Wajir in Kenya's remote northeast.
Obama has battled a whispering campaign by fringe elements
who wrongly say he is Muslim and his aides accused Clinton's
campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" after
the photograph was published.
Wajir elders resolved to file an official complaint with the
U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, dropping earlier plans to hold a
protest after Friday prayers.
They said they would also convene a traditional Somali court
to investigate the matter. It can impose fines that are payable
in cattle, goats or camels.
"We will go ahead with this case whether Senator Clinton or
Democratic party leaders turn up or not," said Mohamed Ibrahim,
a member of the clan that hosted Obama during his trip. "But
this whole thing can be avoided if only an apology is made."
The late father of the Democratic frontrunner was from
Many in the east African country support Obama the way the
Irish idolised U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s -- as
one of their own who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
"The clan he was with have every right to be offended," said
Hussein Ali, a 32-year-old unemployed man outside the main Jamia
Mosque in the capital Nairobi.
"Obama's enemies are trying to portray him as a terrorist,
saying all Muslims, and especially Somalis, are dangerous men."
Clinton's campaign denies authorising the release of the
controversial photo but says that, with 700 staffers, it could
not be certain someone had not sent it out unofficially.
That has not mollified locals in Wajir, a small desert town
near the Somali border, who demanded Clinton "clear her name".
Other Kenyans questioned the timing of the picture's
publication, days before make-or-break votes in Ohio and Texas
For many Americans, Somalia conjures up disturbing images of
dead U.S. troops being dragged through Mogadishu's dusty streets
during the "Black Hawk Down" battle of 1993.
The U.S. military launched air strikes on the Horn of Africa
country last year in its hunt for al Qaeda, including suspects
wanted over the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1988.
"We suspect the intent behind releasing this picture now,
just before Tuesday's very critical vote," said Omar Jamal, head
of the St Paul, Minnesota-based Somali Justice Advocacy Centre.
His lobby group, which works with Somali immigrants in the
United States, has also demanded an apology from Clinton's camp.
"They are trying to make a link between a man who could be
the next U.S. president and a country with al Qaeda terrorist
activities. They're trying to tell citizens, look who you might
be voting for," he told Reuters by telephone.
"Everyone is very upset. It's outrageous and undermining."
(Additional reporting by Noor Ali in Isiolo; Editing by Robert