Obama’s visit to Kenya excites analysts

President Barack Obama’s decision to visit Kenya in July reflects both domestic and international political calculations on the part of the White House, US analysts suggested on Monday.

They noted that Mr Obama had avoided stopping in his father’s homeland during three previous visits to Africa due to human rights concerns regarding Kenya and fear of fueling allegations by fringe figures in US politics that he was born in Kenya, not the United States.

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“For years Kenya has been a political headache for President Obama and a geopolitical headache for the United States,” New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker wrote on Monday.

A visit to Kenya had been considered “problematic on the diplomatic front because of political instability and the charges of crimes against humanity against the country’s president,” the Times reporter noted.

Mr Obama has also had to contend with “ghosts that have haunted his relationship with his family’s home country so much so that he once felt obliged to produce a birth certificate to prove he was not born there,” Mr Baker wrote.

The charges against President Kenyatta in the International Criminal Court (ICC) have now been dropped, the Times noted, thus clearing away that obstacle to Mr Obama’s visit.

ACCEPTABLE HOME AND ABROAD

“And the perennial talk about Mr Obama’s birth has faded in the United States, So Mr Obama seems to have concluded that a Kenya trip is acceptable at home and abroad,” the Times added.

But a former White House chief of staff suggested on a US television network on Monday that Mr Obama’s visit to Kenya will revive charges amongst those referred to in the US as “birthers” that the president has somehow concealed his origins in Kenya.

“His trip back to Kenya is going to create a lot of chatter and commentary amongst the hard right, who still don’t see him as having been born in the US,” said John Sununu, chief of staff to President George Bush senior.

“He is just inciting some chatter on an issue that should have been dead a long time ago,” Mr Sununu, a Republican who is also a former governor of the state of New Hampshire, said on Fox News.

Mr Obama’s decision to visit Kenya also reflects the view that the country has emerged as an important player in the global technology realm, two US officials wrote on the White House blog on Monday.

“Choosing Kenya as the destination for GES underscores the fact that Africa, and Kenya in particular, has become a centre for innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Grant Harris and Shannon Green, referring to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that Kenya is co-hosting with the US.

100,000 AMERICANS IN KENYA

Despite the US warning on travel to Kenya, the two officials noted in their blog post that more than 100,000 Americans live in or visit Kenya each year.

They also cited other reasons for Mr Obama’s trip.

“Just as President Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland in 1963 celebrated the connections between Irish-Americans and their forefathers, President Obama’s trip will honour the strong historical ties between the United States and Kenya – and all of Africa – from the millions of Americans who trace their ancestry to the African continent, to the more than 100,000 Americans that live in or visit Kenya each year,” Mr Harris and Ms Green wrote.

“The president’s trip will be an opportunity to point to the progress already made in improving health, education, human rights and good governance, security, and economic growth across the continent, while helping to spark new opportunities for future generations,” they added.

-nation.co.ke

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