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US pres­i­dent to strengthen ties with Kenya and re­in­force the war on ter­ror­ism, writes

CityPress - - Voices - TAN­ZA­NIA 250km

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

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