One year after the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington D.C., President Obama travelled to Kenya and Ethiopia from July 24 to 28. This travel is expected to be the last one before before his presidency ends in 2016.
The first stop of this African tour was at Nairobi, the Kenyan capital. Obama joined the Global Entrepreneurship Summit—an annual US-sponsored forum that convenes entrepreneurs and leaders from business and governments—where he highlighted the key role of African governments “in creating the transparency, and the rule of law, and the ease of doing business, and the anti-corruption agenda that creates a platform for people to succeed.”
Afterwards Obama held bilateral talks with is Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta and promised him to continue working together against the Somali militant group al-Shabab. This group has repeatedly attacked Kenyan targets.
During the Africa trip, the Obama administration said $500 million would be given to help fight terrorists across Africa.
In a subsequent news conference with Kenyatta, Obama was asked about the issue of anti-gay laws in Kenya.
Obama said he was “painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law”.
“That’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen”.
“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread”, he stated.
Gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in jail in Kenya and several other African countries also outlaw homosexual relations.
Kenyatta responded to Obama’s supportive statement for LGBT community. He replied that despite the US and Kenya sharing some values such as “love for democracy, entrepreneurship [and] value for families, […] the fact remains that this issue is not really an issue that is in the foremost mind of Kenyan”.
The next stop of this African tour was in Ethiopia. The US President met leaders from the East African Community, African Union, and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediating group about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan.
Obama became the first US President to address the African Union. His speech was again based on demands for lesser political corruption, guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and building up economic relationships more respectful to African countries.
“Economic relationships can’t simply be about building countries’ infrastructure with foreign labour or extracting Africa’s natural resources. Real economic partnerships have to be a good deal for Africa. They have to create jobs and capacity for Africans.”
Some has been this statement against the growing presence of China in the African trade market. Chinese state media said Obama went to Africa because US officials are concerned about China’s influence on the continent. Global Times newspaper said the US is no longer “a dominant power in Africa.”
– Joan Isus, Correspondent (Politics)