Kenya prepares to welcome Obama

2015-07-23 20:39
Kenyan women pose for a photograph in front of a painted artwork depicting US President Barack Obama. (Simon Maina, AFP)

Kenyan women pose for a photograph in front of a painted artwork depicting US President Barack Obama. (Simon Maina, AFP)

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Nairobi -  Kenyans were Thursday preparing to welcome US President Barack Obama, while his Kenyan relatives said they would travel to Nairobi to meet him during his two-day visit.

Obama is due to arrive on Friday for his first visit to Kenya since he became president in 2009. The visit begins on Saturday and ends on Sunday.

The US embassy has announced that Obama will not have time to travel to Kogelo, the village about 300km northwest of Nairobi where his late father came from.

Obama's step-grandmother Sarah Obama said she understood that the president had a busy schedule.

"It would be selfish to insist that President Obama visits  [Kogelo], the 93-year-old told dpa in the village on Wednesday.

"He is a world leader," she said, and the Global Entrepreneurship Summit he will attend "is of so much significance to him". 

"It wouldn't be a good sign for him" to neglect business and other leaders in order to come to Kogelo, Sarah Obama said.

But a family source said there were plans for Sarah and other family members to meet Obama in Nairobi.

Sarah said that in spite of the president's many commitments, she was still hoping to persuade him to visit the graves of his father and grandfather, even for just a few hours.

"I am insisting … on behalf of the village and the people of Kogelo," she added.

About 10 000 police were meanwhile being deployed in Nairobi, the Standard newspaper reported.

The US navy was on standby in the Indian Ocean, while the airspace was heavily monitored by the US military, according to the report.

Kenya and the US are especially concerned about possible attacks by al-Shabaab, which has targeted Kenya over its military support to the Somali government in its fight against the Islamist group.

In Nairobi, roads and street lights have been repaired and flowers planted, while some buildings were still receiving a fresh coat of paint ahead of Obama's visit.

A large banner wished the US president "karibu" - welcome - on a road leading to the city centre.

"We want our son back," newspaper seller Henry Ombogo said, showing front pages with pictures of Obama.

"Right now there is power here. You can feel the power," he added.

Obama's visit will "place Kenya on the map," said Ciku Cushny, who helps startup entrepreneurs find investors and who will attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.

But not everyone was happy. The embellishment of the city was "short-term cosmetics", said Carol Wanjira, adding that grass had been planted only 72 hours before Obama was due to land at the airport.

Several residents said they had stocked up on food in case traffic restrictions prevented them from going shopping during the presidential visit.

Obama is officially coming for the entrepreneurial summit.

But his visit is also expected to relaunch the bilateral relationship, frosty since the 2013 elections, when Washington was seen by many as opposing the candidacy of Uhuru Kenyatta because of the charges he was facing over 2007 post-election violence at the International Criminal Court.

Kenyatta won the election and the charges against him were dropped in December.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  kenya  |  east africa

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