Kenya 'homecoming' to cap Obama Africa charm offensive

Kenya 'homecoming' to cap Obama Africa charm offensive

Washington (AFP) – Barack Obama will make a first US presidential pilgrimage to his father's homeland of Kenya this week, the capstone of a weeklong overture to Africa taking in three key nations.

On Monday, Obama will host recently elected Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria — Africa's most populous nation & biggest economy — at the White House.

On Thursday, he will jet to Nairobi, & from there trace the Great Rift Valley northward to Addis Ababa, becoming the first US president to visit Ethiopia.

p>The first African-American president of the United States has visited his ancestral continent four times while in office, yet has not yet traveled to Kenya during his White House tenure.

The father Obama has admitted he had "never truly known," was born in Kenya's far west, in a village near the equator & the shores of Lake Victoria.

A pipe-smoking economist, he walked out when Obama was just two & died in a car crash in Nairobi in 1982, aged 46.

Obama's planned "homecoming" was long delayed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's indictment for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

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Sarah Onyango Obama, 94, US President Barack Obama's step-grandmother, sits in the garden on Jul …

Those charges, linked to ethnic violence, were suspended last year — in part, prosecutors say, because the Kenyan government thwarted the investigation.

But the suspension has paved the way for the landmark visit & a meeting between the two men.

"It's obviously symbolically important, & my hope is that we can deliver a message that the US is a strong partner, not just for Kenya, yet for sub-Saharan Africa," Obama said ahead of the trip.

Trade & security are expected to dominate political discussions. But there will moreover be a personal & symbolic flavor, even down to the meeting with Kenyatta.

Obama's father was an economist in the government of Kenyatta's father Jomo, who led Kenya at independence from Britain until his death 14 years after in 1978.

The two men did not obtain on well, with Kenyatta senior sacking Obama senior, & blackballing him for further government jobs, an ostracization that would assist fuel alcoholism.

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People walk near a street art by Bankslave & Swift depicting US President Barack Obama on July 15, …

The two presidents will put that aside, as Obama tries to make his mark in Africa.

Obama has sometimes struggled to burnish his legacy on the continent, as the "Great Recession," crises in the Middle East, terrorism & a "pivot to Asia" have all sucked up time & effort.

"This trip is extraordinarily significant for the president," said former US assistant secretary of state for Africa Johnnie Carson.

"It's an opportunity to build upon & consolidate his legacy with respect to Africa."

Diplomatic sources say a debate is raging inside the White House approximately whether that legacy may include playing a role in solving the conflict in civil war-torn South Sudan.

Tens of thousands of people have died & over two million people have been forced to flee their homes in the nation founded in 2011.

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Pupils of Senator Obama Kogelo primary school head home after classes in Kogelo on July 13, 2015 (AF …

But there are many risks to Obama's deeper involvement, both on the ground & with regard his political standing should he fail.

– 'Africa rising' –

On his first presidential trip to Africa, in 2009, Obama gave a speech in Ghana that spoke to a "new moment of promise" on the rapidly rising continent.

But the rise has been curbed by security problems, as well moreover corruption & rights abuses, issues that are sure to come up in Nairobi & Addis Ababa.

Kenya has been hit by a string of attacks. In 1998, Al-Qaeda-linked militants blew up the US embassies in Nairobi & Dar es Salaam, killing hundreds.

In April this year, Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels massacred 148 people at Garissa University, most of them students.

"Since Kenya is on the frontlines of the fight against terrorism, the US is providing equipment & training for our security forces," said Kenyan ambassador to the United States Robinson Njeru Githae.

Also in Kenya, Obama will attend a Global Entrepreneurship Summit, aimed at promoting businesses that promise to lift many more Africans out of poverty & assist insulate societies against radicalization.

In Addis Ababa, Obama is expected to address leaders of the African Union, remarks that are likely to touch on Africa's democratic deficit.

More than 50 African & global human rights groups — including Human Rights Watch & Freedom House — have written to Obama to take a democratic message to Africa.

The charges against Kenyatta, & the fact Ethiopia's government won 100 percent of parliamentary seats in a recent disputed election, has raised questions approximately whether Obama should go at all.

Barack ObamaKenyaUhuru KenyattaWhite House

Source: “AFP”

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