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Kenyan Town Plans Protest Over Obama Somali Photo
By Noor Ali
ISIOLO, Kenya, February 27, 2008 - Residents of a remote Kenyan town plan to demonstrate on Friday after a photo of U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama in Somali dress took centre stage in an increasingly acrimonious race for the White House.
The picture, which appeared on a U.S. Web site, showed the Illinois senator donning a traditional white headdress and robes during a 2006 trip to Wajir in north-eastern Kenya.
Aides to Obama, whose late father was from Kenya, accused his rival Hillary Clinton's campaign of "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering" of the election season so far after the picture was published.
Clinton 's camp denied officially approving the photo's release. Obama has fought a whispering campaign by fringe elements that say erroneously that he is Muslim.
The controversy made headlines in Kenya, where many people already support the Democratic front-runner in the way the Irish idolized U.S. President John F. Kennedy in the 1960s -- as one of their own who succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Ahmed Sheikh Bahalow, a retired teacher and elder from ethnically Somali Wajir, said his community was offended by the insinuation Obama had done anything wrong on his visit.
"The Somali community and in particular those living in Kenya have never been that interested in America politics," Bahalow told Reuters in the central town of Isiolo. "But we are following it keenly now because we have been provoked."
Wajir residents planned to demonstrate in the town after Friday prayers to show their support for Obama, he said.
Clinton needs to win next week in Ohio and Texas to keep her campaign alive after Obama's streak of 11 straight victories.
Once the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic nomination to run against a Republican candidate in November's poll, she has lost big leads in public opinion polls in the two states as Obama has gained momentum and made inroads among her supporters.
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Giles Elgood)
Source: Reuters, Feb 27, 2008