Leaders and a cross-section of Kenyans on Sunday welcomed President Uhuru Kenyatta’s firm stand on the controversial topic of same-sex marriages.
The President, they said, resonated well with Kenyans when he differed with United States leader Barack Obama on the matter.
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet, URP) said at no time did President Kenyatta act as if he was less equal to President Obama, adding that his response was firm but respectful.
“He never fumbled. His body language, posture and demeanour carried the sovereignty of our people. He made us proud as Kenyans. It demonstrated that we are a sovereign nation and we are not living as underdogs,” said Mr Murkomen.
He added that the visit left Kenyans with success stories as Mr Obama did not talk down on Kenyans but, instead, shared a message of hope that could propel the country to great heights.
“We have had a culture where Western leaders leave us with a sense of hopelessness. But Mr Obama made it clear that Africa is on the right path and that Africa is on the move,” said Mr Murkomen. He said Kenya had attracted global attention, something that would improve the country’s tourism and investment revenue.
Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni, Wiper) said same-sex marriage is not an issue in Kenya. He added: “President Obama went a step further to say that no one should be discriminated for whatever reason.”
Mr Kilonzo Jnr said the trip was a success and worth the sacrifice, as it was bound to give Kenyans positive coverage globally, as the government looks forward to improving its investment opportunities.
“If Mr Obama spent two nights in Nairobi, then the city and Kenya is safe,” said Mr Kilonzo Jnr, adding that security personnel had the capability to ensure safety of everyone.
President Kenyatta, who spoke after Mr Obama had called for respect of gays and lesbians, was categorical that the topic was a “non-issue” as it was difficult to impose on Kenyans what they don’t believe in.
“As of now, the fact remains that this issue is not really an issue that is on the foremost minds of Kenyans, and that is a fact,” Mr Kenyatta said on Saturday during a joint press conference at State House.
The two presidents were responding to questions from journalists who had gathered at State House to cover the event. Mr Obama said he had been consistent all across Africa that the rights of gays and lesbians must be respected.
“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,” Mr Obama said.
He said it was improper to treat people who all obey the law, differently because of whom they love as such an approach could see the habits spread.
“When you start treating people differently, not because of the harm they are doing to anybody but because they are different, that is the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen,” said Mr Obama.
Mr Dominic Karanja, a businessman in Nairobi, said President Kenyatta demonstrated that he appreciated cultural and societal expectations in the country and did not disappoint. “Other leaders could have been swayed by the goodies that Mr Obama pledged, to evade the question or to blindly echo his sentiments in due disregard of what Kenyans stood for,” he said.
He said the Kenyan Constitution is clear that marriage should be between members of the opposite sex, adding that human rights crusaders supporting same-sex marriages were missing the point.
Deputy President William Ruto and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi are among high ranking officials who spoke against same-sex marriages ahead of the US leader’s visit.
Some MPs even went ahead to say they would eject President Obama from Parliament if he visited them there and included the topic in his speech.
Ms Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes) had urged the government to reject any aid offered if it was tied to legalising same-sex marriages.