“We are all part of one tribe”.
The president barely knew his father, who died in 1982 after leaving the U.S.to return to Kenya.
Sarah Obama, the matriarch of the Obama family, flew from the western Kenyan city of Kisumu to Nairobi on Friday ahead of a meeting with the American president, Kenyan media reported. “That goes without saying”, Obama said. Many bore umbrellas and wore rain ponchos, over T-shirts featuring his White House picture and reading “Welcome President Obama“.
“When it comes to the people of Kenya, particularly the youth, I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve”, he said, adding that Kenyans need to exert personal responsibility to make it happen.
But Obama also stressed the importance of protecting basic rights, comparing homophobia in Africa to racial discrimination he had encountered in the United States.
“Just because something is a tradition doesn’t mean it’s right”, Obama said.
“Treating women and girls as second-class citizens, those are bad traditions”.
“There is no excuse for sexual assault or domestic violence, there is no reason that young girls should suffer genital mutilation, there is no place in civilised society for the early or forced marriage of children”.
Mr Obama warned about the risks of government corruption, calling it an “anchor” that could weigh down the country’s promising future. “It is time we changed the narrative about Africa”. The economy of Ethiopia, Obama’s next stop, is forecast to expand by more than 10 per cent, although rights groups say Addis Ababa’s achievements are at the expense of political freedom.
The president also laid a wreath at the memorial site of the former US embassy destroyed in an Al-Qaeda attack in 1998, standing in silence in memory of the 224 killed in the twin bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania.
The terror fight was a major subject of Obama’s bilateral discussion with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya”, Obama said Sunday.
“Obama came into office as a symbol for Africa, being the first African-American president, but that generated very high expectations that in turn led to very deep disappointment when it turned out Africa was not the priority for the US that people expected”, Joseph Siegle, director of research at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Howard LaFranchi.
One official said the U.S. sees the two sides as “utterly indifferent” to the country’s suffering. “He’s one of us”.
Compounding that message, Obama recalled details of pre-presidential trips to Kenya replete with the stuff of everyday life: broken down cars, traditional foods, lost luggage and reconnecting with his family. “I’m here as a friend who wants Kenya to succeed”, he said, after being introduced by his sister, Ms Auma Obama, to a crowd of 4,500, many of whom had secured tickets to attend.
The president’s late father was born and is buried in Kenya, and its people have waited for years for the chance to welcome Mr Obama back as president.
Or here, when he takes to the dance floor in Kenya to the sounds of Swahili music.
“You are poised to play a bigger role in this world”, the president said.