President Obama was in Kenya in the last few days – he headed out to Ethiopia this morning, local time. The visit was notable because Kenya is where Obama’s father is from, and it is the first time a U.S. president has visited the country while in office. Indeed, NBC reports that Obama referred to himself as a “Kenyan-American” president – the first time he’s ever done so, which was received with loud cheers and support.
Among many things, Obama reportedly discussed gay rights in Kenya – an issue that has come to the spotlight at varying times because of the treatment of gay people in the country – where homosexuality is outlawed. Obama expressed that he understood that for religious or cultural reasons, people may have certain attitudes about these issues. But that in a democracy, people deserve equal treatment under the law – regardless of who they are as people. Referring to history, Obama particularly honed in on his belief that it is important for the state to treat people who are seen as different, equally and fairly.
The Kenyan president, however, Uhuru Kenyatta, reiterated that gay rights is not an issue in Kenya – and that the current status quo represents the will of the people. He insisted that Kenyans have other things on their mind, including education and employment.
Obama also discussed women’s rights in Kenya which had a better reception and agreement from Kenyatta. It looks like Obama’s gay rights advocacy might not affect Kenyan attitudes and law any time soon, but maybe the country will make a headway in women’s rights.