by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
US President Barack Obama made history at the weekend, when he visited his father’s home country of Kenya. He also proudly declared himself as the first Kenyan-American to be the president of the United States, as well as being the first American president to go to Kenya.
The president also spoke out to Kenyans on terrorism, discrimination, and corruption, in the midst of the country’s expected growth of around six per cent this year.
As well as announcing plans to launch direct flights between Kenya and the United States, the US president also danced with a Kenyan pop star, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other officials at a State House dinner.
He unveiled initiatives countering extremist group Al Shabaab in bordering Somalia.
“We also discussed broader efforts to counter violent extremism here in Kenya and around the world, efforts that were advanced when there is rule of law, respect for human rights, a space for civil society and peaceful dissent, and when we will welcome all communities as our partners,” he said.
In the midst of Kenya’s progressive growth rate, powered by a robust agriculture and tourism sector, Obama urged a zero tolerance stance against corruption, offering counsel and technical assistance to increase transparency and accountability, as well as strengthen anti-corruption institutions.
The president acknowledged that the cultural differences between the United States and Kenya are too vast, but spoke out on Kenya’s criminalisation of homosexuality, which warrants a jail sentence for up to 14 years.
“Similarly with respect to the rights of gays and lesbians, I have been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law, and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,” he said.
Over 80 per cent of Kenyans are Christians, and Kenyan President Kenyatta did not share the same stance, saying economic and security issues are of higher prominence.
President Obama is now on the second leg of his African tour, travelling to Ethiopia today, to address the 54-member African Union in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.