Obama promises Kenya ‘goodies’ during tour
US President Barack Obama says his visit to Kenya next week will cement his government’s resolve to support the region on “important issues.”
In a press briefing on Wednesday in Washington, President Obama said he looks forward to travelling to Nairobi because it will give him an opportunity to reassure Kenya and the region of support needed.
“My hope is, 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.
“[we can] build on the progress that’s been made around issues of health and education; focus on counter-terrorism issues that are important in East Africa because of Al-Shabaab and some of the tragedies that have happened inside of Kenya.”
The US government has maintained in the past that it was supporting Kenya’s counter-terrorism efforts. In May, Secretary of State John Kerry told journalists in Nairobi that the US will give Sh 9.6 billion in the fight against Al Shabaab, as well as help in intelligence gathering and sharing.
Obama will be visiting Nairobi from July 24 for the first time as President 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, policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs are expected to attend the event which will be the first in sub-Saharan Africa.
Obama’s visit has created excitement beyond GES because his father was Kenyan and it looks like a homecoming.
His itinerary has been closely guarded but on Wednesday, he told journalists his government will also press for ‘democratic values’ often associated with his three previous foreign travels in Africa.
“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.
“It’s obviously something I’m looking forward to. 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 center.
“And just the logistics of visiting a place are always tough as President, but it’s obviously symbolically important.”
Obama’s comments could be a great reassurance coming just a day after the State Department issues a travel alert on Kenya, warning Americans to be careful during the conference as they could be targeted.
“As with all large public events, there is the opportunity for criminal elements to target participants and other visitors,” the Department said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Large-scale public events such as this summit can also be a target for terrorists. US citizens should maintain a high level of security awareness.”
The Department said suicide operations, bombings of buildings and vehicles, kidnappings, attacks on aircraft or ports are the possible acts terrorists could do. The alert about the conference is supposed to last up to July 30 but it did not give new information. In May, the US government cautioned its nationals from visiting certain areas in the country.
A State Department Official later told the Daily Nation the alert is not meant to affect attendance because it is standard practice for the US government to alert its nationals around the world whenever there is a huge event.