US President Barack Obama has revealed that he is looking forward to visiting Kenya next week.
However, he would have preferred to make the trip as a private citizen due to the logistics involved in travelling as head of State, he said.
“It’s obviously something I’m looking forward to,” Mr Obama told journalists at the White House in Washington DC, on Wednesday. I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as President because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference centre.
“And just the logistics of visiting a place are always tough as President, but it’s obviously symbolically important.”
The US leader said he intends to use the visit to show support for East Africa, which is battling rising extremism and threats from terrorism.
“(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 Al-Shabaab and some of the tragedies that have happened inside of Kenya,” he said.
The US Government has maintained in the past that it is supporting Kenya’s counter-terrorism efforts. In May, Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists in Nairobi that the US would give Sh9.6 billion in the fight against Al-Shabaab, as well as help in intelligence gathering and sharing.
Yesterday, an Al-Shabaab leader and his accomplice were killed in a US drone strike inside Somalia, while the Kenya Defence Forces said they had killed 51 terrorists in another attack, also in Somalia (see stories on Pages 4-5).
In his address, President Obama also said that he would press for expansion of the democratic space and greater commitment in the fight against corruption when he visits Nairobi for a global entrepreneurship conference that opens on July 24.
“We will hopefully continue to encourage democracy and the reduction of corruption inside that country that sometimes has held back this incredibly gifted and blessed country. My hope is that we can deliver a message that the US is a strong partner not just for Kenya, but for Sub-Saharan Africa generally,” he said.
Kenya has been battling to tame corruption and several senior government officials have been taken to court on corruption charges.
A consortium of human rights groups wrote an open letter on Tuesday, asking Mr Obama to address human rights abuses and lack of freedoms in Kenya. The Kenyan Government officially denies there is any plot to muzzle activists.
Mr Obama will be visiting Nairobi from July 24 for the first time as President of the US to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), one of his flagship programmes to support the youth and women against poverty.
More than 3,000 business leaders, policy makers, investors and entrepreneurs are expected to attend the event — the first in sub-Saharan Africa.
An earlier schedule indicated that he will fly to Ethiopia from Nairobi.