Obama could visit Kenya soon

Friday January 25 2013

By Kevin J Kelley New York

US presidential travel patterns suggest Barack Obama will make an extensive tour of Africa in the coming months, with Kenya high on the list of possible destinations, the Associated Press says.

“Presidents take special pleasure in travelling to places where they have ancestral ties,” Brandon Doherty, a political science professor at the US Naval Academy, told the news agency on Thursday.

In 2010, Mr Obama told the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation: “I’m positive that before my service as president is completed, I will visit Kenya again.”

But the son of a Kenyan economist disappointed many when he steered clear of the country during his first four years as president.

Mr Obama, in fact, spent less than one day in black Africa in his first term, giving a speech in Ghana six months after his 2009 inauguration. The choice of Ghana was widely interpreted as a rebuff to Kenya, which was still reeling from the post-election violence of early 2008.

Kenya’s ambassador to the US, Mr Elkanah Odembo, said he has been told by the White House that a decision by Mr Obama to visit Kenya this year will likely hinge on the outcome of the March election. Violence would almost certainly result in Mr Obama avoiding Kenya yet again.

Prof Doherty said an election victory by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta could also result in an Obama stayaway. The US president, a champion of human rights, would be unlikely to want to shake hands with a politician indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

“It’s certainly the case that presidents of both parties spend more time in countries that have long traditions of democratic elections,” he said.

A multi-stop tour of Africa by Mr Obama during his second term would follow the pattern established by his two most recent predecessors.

President Bill Clinton did not go to Africa at all during his first term, and President George W Bush visited only Somalia in his first four years.

Mr Clinton visited six African countries during his second term, and Mr Bush toured five following his re-election in 2004.

President Obama was in Kenya as a senator in 2006 when he visited his ancestral home of Kogelo, Siaya County.

Kenyan’s celebrated when he was elected the 44th President of the United States of America.

President Kibaki hailed Obama’s victory as significant not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for Kenya, the ancestral homeland of Barack Obama.

He said, “The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success.’’

Barack Obama had compared his trip to Kenya with his last visit back in 1987, when he and his sister had travelled around Kenya by train and public bus.

“It was a magical trip. I discovered the warmth and sense of community that the people of Kenya possess... I discovered the beauty of the land, a beauty that haunts you long after you’ve left. And most importantly for me, I discovered the story of my father’s life and the story of his father before him…”

Obama’s Kenyan father went from herding goats in a small village in western Kenya to studying economics in the USA, where he met Obama’s mother. He died in 1982, but Obama’s grandmother still lives in the village of Kogelo.