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No separate engagements between Obama, Ruto: official

Wednesday July 22 2015

A man admires a billboard erected at Kibarani dumpsite just to Makupa causeway by some of the casual workers together with street families to welcome US President Barack Obama in the country. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A man admires a billboard erected at Kibarani dumpsite just to Makupa causeway by some of the casual workers together with street families to welcome US President Barack Obama in the country. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KEVIN J.  KELLEY
By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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President Barack Obama will not have separate engagements with Deputy President William Ruto during the US leader’s visit in Kenya.

President Obama will, however, directly address the Kenyan people on Sunday as a highlight of a two-day visit that will include meetings with government leaders and civil society groups, US National Security Advisor Susan Rice announced on Wednesday.

It is expected that Mr Obama "will spend some time in private with some of his relatives," she added in remarks to reporters at the White House.

Ms Rice affirmed that the president will not make a side trip to K'Ogelo and instead intends to meet family members at functions in Nairobi.

Mr Obama has "no plans for any separate engagements" with Deputy President William Ruto, Ms Rice said in response to a reporter's question about meeting the Kenyan official on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

"He is a member of the government and so will be present at some of the events," she added in regard to Mr Ruto.

The US leader's public itinerary begins on Saturday when he will preside over the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Ms Rice said.

Mr Obama is also scheduled on Saturday to pay tribute to the victims and survivors of the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, she stated.

The US president will hold a press conference on Saturday and attend a state dinner in addition to taking part in a "bilateral programme" hosted by the Kenyan government, the White House official added.

The Sunday event with Kenyan civil-society organisations is meant to highlight their contributions to Kenya's democracy, Ms Rice said.

Topics to be covered in Mr Obama's discussions with the groups include wildlife trafficking, girls' education and efforts to counter violent extremism.

She did not identify the venue or the focus of Mr Obama's speech to the Kenyan people on Sunday, saying those details will be provided later.

FOCUS ON SECURITY

Ms Rice noted that Kenya faces major security challenges which will be a focus of Mr Obama's agenda. She also pointed to US concerns regarding corruption and respect for human rights.

She cited Kenya's economic achievements and its progress in democratic governance.

Ms Rice also described Kenya as having a "competitive democratic system," and said the visit "will honour the strong ties between the US and Kenya."

Asked if the US views President Kenyatta as a democratically elected leader, Ms Rice replied affirmatively and drew an implicit contrast with Ethiopia, where Mr Obama will travel after departing Kenya on Sunday.

"We have stated some concern for the integrity of the electoral process" in Ethiopia, she said, noting recent results in which the ruling party won 100 per cent of the seats in the country's Parliament.

Asked if Mr Obama will raise the issue of gay rights in Kenya, Ms Rice said: "This is something we do not shy away from underscoring."

"This is not something we think is a topic we reserve for some parts of the world and not others," Ms Rice said, adding that Mr Obama "will feel perfectly free to raise his concerns."

SECURITY BREACH

Unauthorised disclosures of the president's arrival in and departure from Kenya "have in no way affected our approach to or our plans for the trip," the national security advisor said. "Often, some of this information turns out to be not entirely accurate," she observed.

While acknowledging the security concerns facing Kenya, Ms Rice expressed assurance that "we wouldn't be taking this trip if we thought security considerations precluded us from doing so."