President Obama’s Visit To Kenya Will Focus On Regional Security and Entrepreneurship

By @diplomatist10 on
U.S. President Barack Obama during the Summit of the Americas in Panama
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama, April 11, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya starting Friday will be his first trip to his father’s homeland as a sitting president. The highlight of the President’s program in Kenya will be the key note address at the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, being co-hosted by the United States and Kenya. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is a U.S. backed initiative that brings together young business leaders from all over the world.

This is the first time a Sub-Saharan African state will be hosting the summit, which is now in its sixth edition. Kiprono Kittony, chairman of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Laila Macharia, vice chairperson of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance exuded high optimism about Mr Obama’s visit and the resultant global spotlight on Kenya.

Security Partnership

The high profile visit will also be an opportunity for Kenya to address its security concerns. In an address to the nation, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta underscored the importance of cooperation with the U.S. on security. “We have been working in very close collaboration with American agencies during our fight on terror. And I am certain that that is an agenda we shall further strengthen during this particular meeting,” the president said.

Kenya is already a partner of the U.S-led $65-million “Security Governance Initiative” that seeks to improve security and justice in Africa. The country has been a victim of devastating attacks from various terror groups, in which, Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabab is the most aggressive. In the April assault on Kenya’s Garissa University, 148 people were killed. The al-Qaida linked outfit had been claiming that it is seeking “revenge” for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia.

Human Rights

Meanwhile, some human rights groups are trying to draw the attention of the U.S president by expressing concerns about Kenya’s approach to terrorism. In an open letter to President Obama, rights groups including Human Rights Watch and the Kenya Human Rights Commission urged the American president to address “critical human rights issues” in his discussions with Kenyan leaders. They expressed concerns over Kenya’s threats to civil society and the media, abuses by its security forces in anti-terror operations and maltreatment of refugees.

After visiting Kenya, President Obama will travel to Ethiopia and hold meetings with Ethiopian officials where the leadership of the African Union is housed in Addis Ababa. Mr Obama visited Kenya as a senator in 2006 and received a rapturous welcome. This is the first time a sitting U.S. president will be visiting Kenya and understandably there is a great sense of pride, reports BBC .

(For feedback/comments, contact the writer at k.kumar@ibtimes.com.au)

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