President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit Kenya this weekend.
“Mr. Obama, this is not your first trip to Kenya,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said. “But yesterday you arrived riding on the wings of history.”
Kenyans were thrilled to have the president visiting the homeland of his father. Obama was welcomed to the country by American flags lining the road from the airport and advertisements on billboards that announced his trip.
Proud to be the first American President to visit Kenya. Happy to see family, and to talk with young Kenyans about the future.
— President Obama (@POTUS) July 24, 2015
During Saturday’s joint news conference with the Kenyan president, Obama explained how happy he was to be visiting.
“There are cousins and uncles and aunties that show up that you didn’t know existed, but you’re always happy to meet,” Obama said. “There were lengthy explanations in some cases of the connections.”
President Obama joked around with the crowd some, but he also hit on some hard topics during the news conference.
He urged the Kenyan government to consider how they battled terrorism. He tried to make it clear that conducting serious abuses against human rights is a way to turn people toward terrorism, not away.
“If in reaction to terrorism, you’re restricting legitimate organizations, reducing the scope of peaceful organization, then that can have the inadvertent effect of increasing the pool of recruits for terrorism,” Obama said.
Obama also explained that if the Kenyan government was to fight against the corruption among them, they were going to have to do so in a very public manner. He insisted that people would know something was wrong if all the prosecution was done behind closed doors.
For the most part, Kenyatta discussed each issue with President Obama as the man brought up topics. Things changed, however, when Obama brought up the subject of gay rights.
“When you start treating people differently not because of any harm they are doing to anybody, but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode,” Obama said. “And bad things happen.”
Obama continued on to say, “and when a government gets in a habit of people treating people differently, those habits can spread. As an African-American, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”
Kenyatta refused to even discuss the issue. He made it clear that the Kenyan people and government saw gay rights as a “non-issue” and that they did not intend to change their policies.
[Image courtesy of Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Image]