US President Obama’s Security Gadgets Arrive

Obama and MicheleA US military cargo plane carrying sophisticated communications and security equipment touched down in Nairobi yesterday, ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit next month.

The plane is one of six expected at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport over the next three weeks, according to government insiders.

They will ferry in a whole range of secure advanced communications equipment, some of it to be used by President Obama himself when he lands next month.

Obama is expected in Nairobi on July 25 for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by Kenya and the US. He will also hold bilateral talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The C-17 Starlifter planes will also bring in specialiased vehicles, such as the world famous The Beast, the presidential limo, expected in the country the night before his arrival.

Some of the equipment, such as the counterassault vehicles and military hardware, the Star has learnt, will come from the US military base on Manda Bay on the Kenyan Coast.

“You have seen Obama’s previous trips to Africa. Since this is not a long stay, the hardware and manpower may not be as much, but a look at the previous trips can give you an idea of what to expects”, a source familiar with the planning told the Star.  When Obama visited Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania in 2013, the Washington Post reported that the US had shipped in more than 50 support vehicles and three truckloads of bulletproof glass.

More than 100 Secret Service officers – and dozens of support staff – were used during one visit by Obama that took six days.  When US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the country last month, his convoy was made up of dozens of armoured vehicles.  Obama’s itinerary Kenya is still a closely guarded affair, other than that he will meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

But coming at a time that Kenya is focused on fighting insecurity and especially al-Shabaab’s terror threat, security will be heightened to a considerable level as the day comes closer, reaching a climax for the duration of the visit.  Throughout this planning, the team has been identifying potential sniper positions to establish the number of counterassault teams that will be required.

One source has disclosed that a group of officers from the GSU Recce Squad has been receiving specialised training on how to work with the Secret Service.  According to this source, President Kenyatta’s outriders will play a big role in Obama’s convoy but the Americans will be in charge.

Even Kenyatta’s own security personnel will be screened by the Americans before they are allowed close to the two Presidents.

A US president’s visit to a foreign country is part diplomacy and part PR and those involved aim at presenting a narrative to both the hosts and those back at home – and a global media audience.  In the initial meetings that usually happen in Washington, the White House, the National Security Council, the State Department, and the US Embassy in the foreign country usually discuss how to use the trip to tell a story.

In the Kenyan case, three issues stand out – the war on terror and Kenya’s innovation leadership in Africa and the fact that this country is Obama’s father’s homeland. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the main event Obama is attending, will also be the backcloth to these factors.

– the-star.co.ke

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