KENYANS WELCOME OBAMA WITH OPEN ARMS
They have been waiting for this moment since he was elected president of the US in 2008. Barack Obama has paid his first state visit to the country of his father, Kenya, and the nation has rolled out the red carpet for him, while also raising security to extreme levels. USA Today reported that Obama was welcomed by cheering and dancing on the streets of the capital city of Nairobi.
“We have waited for Obama to visit the country since he became president. We want to thank God that he has finally arrived. We thank him for fulfilling his promise to the country before he leaves the presidency,” said Grace Wangeci, a vegetable seller on the streets of Nairobi.
Obama himself acknowledged the significance of the visit when he opened the Global Entrepreneurship Summit yesterday.
“I am proud to be the first US president to visit Kenya,” he said. “Obviously, it is personal for me. It’s the reason my name is Barack Hussein Obama. My father came from these parts, I have family and relatives here. It is wonderful to be back in Kenya.”
Al Jazeera.com reported that at the summit, Obama praised Africa for its economic advancements, calling it one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.
“People are being lifted out of poverty, incomes are up, the middle class is growing and young people like you are harnessing technology to change the way Africa is doing business,” he told young entrepreneurs at the summit.
But Nairobi was on lockdown and major routes, and the international airport, were mostly closed for the state visit.
According to The Guardian, much of the focus of Obama’s visit would be on improving economic relations and enhancing security cooperation.
Kenya has been battling to contain the threat by al-Shabaab militants based in neighbouring Somalia. An al-Qaeda offshoot, it has plotted and executed major attacks in Kenya. According to CNN, the Pentagon has quietly expanded military operations in Somalia with the sole aim of targeting al-Shabaab bases. Drone strikes could soon be used to support African peacekeepers, most of them Kenyan, who are constantly under attack from the terror group. CNN has reported that drones armed with Hellfire missiles have been flying from a US military site in Djibouti on the strike missions. Other drones conducting intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance have been operating out of Ethiopia, according to one of the officials.
Obama later visited the Memorial Park in Nairobi’s CBD, the site where 17 years ago, al-Qaeda bombed the US embassy killing 218 people and injuring 5 000 others. He laid a wreath at the memorial. Meanwhile, villagers in Obama’s ancestral village of Kogelo in Siaya County were hoping he would make a stop there before leaving Kenya.
Local media reported that US officials had been visiting the village to hold meetings with his family.
Through their spokesperson Malik Obama, the president’s family is reported by local media to have written to the White House two weeks ago asking him to visit Kogelo. It is not clear if permission had been granted for the visit.
GRAND GREETING Barack Obama’s grandmother Sarah Hussein (centre) gets ready to greet her grandson
SOLAR SENSATION President Barack Obama meets a solar power technician at the Power Africa Innovation Fair in Nairobi yesterday
SISTERLY LOVE Barack Obama embraces his halfsister, Auma Obama, upon arrival in Kenya