AMERICAN President Barack Obama has finally decided to visit Kenya.

He however has not given a date, but Washington and Nairobi are working on the finer details of the proposed visit, the Star has learnt from multiple sources.

Obama briefly met Uhuru two weeks ago at the White House, where he said he was keen to visit Kenya, the land of his father.

“Yes, President Obama had a conversation with our President and he spoke of how keen he was to visit Kenya before his term ends in 2017. No date was fixed, but, certainly, both governments have begun planning for the visit, and, sure, it will be announced at the appropriate time ,” said State House and Government spokesman Manoah Esipisu.

In June last year, President Obama disappointed many Kenyans when he skipped the country on his way to neighbouring Tanzania, Senegal and South Africa in a week-long tour of Africa. The disappointment was borne out of the fact that Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan economist from Kogelo in Siaya.

At the time the White House said the timing was not right, considering that Kenyans had, in March 2013, elected President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto, who are both facing charges at the ICC.

Kenyatta and Ruto face charges of crimes against humanity and while Ruto is already on trial, Kenyatta’s case is due to start next month.

Before the elections, a senior US diplomat, Johnnie Carson, who until April last year was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said that “choices have consequences”, a comment viewed as a warning against electing Kenyatta.

The US government has since played down the remarks, recognised Uhuru’s election and invited him to the White House alongside 47 other Africa leaders for the three-day Summit last week.

US Embassy spokesman in Nairobi Michael Greenwald did not confirm or deny Obama’s proposed visit.

“At the Summit there were various conversations among leaders, and President Obama took advantage of the opportunity to talk with a few leaders with whom he needed to discuss issues or pressing concerns. The White House sets and announces President Obama’s schedule,” said Greenwald.

While in Washington and Dallas, President Kenyatta, in three days, met President Obama and his predecessors, George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

“All three have shown their commitment to Africa. Barack Obama’s father was born here, and the President has presided over one of the most ambitious infrastructure programmes ever attempted in Africa. Many of you will also recall President Bush’s PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief), the programme which may have saved a million lives, and which has done much to turn the tide against HIV/Aids in Africa. In AGOA, President Clinton left behind a substantial legacy of opportunity and trade between Africa and the US. It is to that programme that we turn first,” said Esipisu in a statement.

Obama first came to Kenya in 1988, six years after his father died, and he thereafter wrote about the visit in his memoir ‘Dreams From My Father.’

“My name belonged and so I belonged, drawn into a web of relationships, alliances and grudges that I did not yet understand,” he wrote.

He visited Kenya two more times, most recently in 2006 as a newly elected senator.

During that highly publicised visit, Obama was greeted by cheering crowds in Nairobi, Kisumu and in Kogelo, where he spent time with his grandmother and visited his father’s grave.

He and wife Michelle Obama also publicly took HIV tests, part of their campaign at the time to reduce the stigma surrounding the virus.

But Obama’s nationally televised speech at the University of Nairobi was very critical of President Kibaki’s failure to curb graft.

Dr Alfred Mutua, who was then Kenya’s government spokesman, said that Obama was ignorant of Kenyan politics and had yet to form an understanding of foreign policy at the time.

– the-star.co.ke

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