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US president to strengthen ties with Kenya and reinforce the war on terrorism, writes
US President Barack Obama is set to make a historic three-day visit to Kenya – the land of his father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr, next week. He will be gracing the Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Nairobi. There is a feeling of excitement and anxiety in Nairobi, which is a beehive of activity ahead of the first visit by a sitting American president, with the streets being spruced up and security and surveillance enhanced.
The east African country has previously experienced terror attacks that have sometimes targeted American establishments in the country.
But the residents of his father’s village in Kogelo, Siaya County, some 412km west of Nairobi, will not be a happy lot after the US ambassador to Kenya, Robert Godec, announced that Obama would not visit the area or set foot near the grave of his father during the visit.
His relatives in Kenya have, however, said they would be meeting the US president privately at an undisclosed location.
Obama spoke of the impending visit to Kenya on Wednesday during a press conference at the White House and hinted at his agenda, particularly singling out the issues of corruption and strengthening democratic governance.
Interestingly, Obama makes the visit against a background of a travel advisory issued by the US state department asking citizens to avoid Kenya until after his visit. The advisory expires on July 30.
Obama said: “The visit to Kenya is something I am looking forward to. It would be more meaningful to me if I visited as a private citizen, which would mean I could get outside a hotel room or conference centre.
“The logistics of a visit as a president are always tough, but it is obviously important not just for Kenya, but for sub-Saharan Africa.”
Obama reiterated his message ahead of the visit: “The US is a strong partner not just for Kenya but for subSaharan Africa. I look forward to building on progress on issues of health and education.”
His visit also means a reinforced war on terrorism, which has compromised peace and stability in east African countries, with Kenya bearing the greatest brunt at the hands of al-Shabaab terror bands. The cooperation includes the sharing of intelligence and strategies to neutralise terrorism.
Al-Shabaab militia attacked Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya on April 2 and killed more than 175 students, largely from Christian backgrounds, in a harrowing incident that attracted global attention.
The Garissa attack came as the Westgate Shopping Centre prepared to reopen after shutting its doors to the public since it was attacked on September 18 2013. Several Kenyans and foreigners were killed by terrorists.
Security is expected to be central in the talks between Obama and his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta, during the visit, as Kenya is a leading partner of the US in counterterrorism efforts.
It is expected that there will be talks on how to prevent youth from being radicalised.
Of equal concern for Kenya will be engaging with the US and the international community to find lasting solutions to the conflicts of her neighbours Somalia and South Sudan.
On the economic front, Kenya – like the rest of Africa – will be pitching in for the need to increase value exports to the US and renewing the Africa Growth Opportunity Act, the current term of which expires at the end of September.
Kenya looks set to lobby for eliminating trade barriers with the US and the introduction of direct flights between Kenya and the US.
During the US-Africa leaders’ summit in Washington, DC, last year, Obama launched the Power Africa initiative aimed at increasing access to clean, reliable and efficient electricity.
Aol is City Press’ Kenyan correspondent 1 This is Obama’s first official visit to Kenya since becoming US president in 2009. It will be his fourth visit to the land where his father was born. His first was in 1997, the second with his then fiancée, Michelle, in 2002 and later as a US senator in 2006. 2 He will hold meetings with President Uhuru Kenyatta. 3 “[We can] build on the progress that’s been made around issues of health and education; focus on counterterrorism issues that are important in east Africa because of alShabaab and some of the tragedies that have happened inside Kenya,” Obama said ahead of his visit. 4 Sarah Obama, his step-grandmother, said: “Obama is coming as a guest of the state and to see the people of Kenya, not me.” 5 Malik Obama, half-brother to the US president, on hearing that Obama would not visit his family in Kogelo, Nairobi, said: “I would like for us to just sit down and have a vanilla ice cream or a strawberry fruit cake, just to have a nice dinner – nice steak, Caesar salad – to sit down and enjoy each other.”
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Barack Obama in Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya, during his 2006 senatorial visit to Kenya
TIES Barack Obama with stepgrandmother, Sarah Obama