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Defiant Obama to speak on gay rights

  • 24 July 2015
  • From the section Africa

US President Barack Obama has told the BBC he will continue to deliver his “blunt message” to African leaders about gay rights and discrimination.

“I am not a fan of discrimination and bullying of anybody on the basis of race… religion… sexual orientation or gender,” he said.

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Mr Obama was talking ahead of a trip to his ancestral home of Kenya.

The visit also demonstrated US commitment to fighting terror in East Africa, he said.

It will be his first visit to Kenya since becoming president.

He will also become the first US leader to address the African Union when he travels on to Ethiopia on Sunday.


Mr Obama has faced criticism in some African countries after the US legalised gay marriage. However, the president said he would not fall silent on the issue.

Kenya is getting ready to welcome the US president
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The US leader also admitted that some African governments, including Kenya’s, needed to improve their records on human rights and democracy.

However, he defended his decision to engage with and visit those governments.

“Well, they’re not ideal institutions. But what we found is, is that when we combined blunt talk with engagement, that gives us the best opportunity to influence and open up space for civil society.”

Obama on Africa:

  • US-Africa ties

“I’ll be the first US president to not only visit Kenya and Ethiopia, but also to address the continent as a whole, building off the African summit that we did here which was historic and has, I think, deepened the kinds of already strong relationships that we have across the continent.”

  • Giving the young opportunities

“A while back, when we started looking at strategies to reach out to the Muslim world – to reach out to – developed countries, a common theme emerged, which was people are not interested in – just being patrons- or – or being patronised. And being given aid. They’re interested in building capacity.”

  • On China

“We welcome Chinese aid into Africa. I think we think that’s a good thing. We don’t want to discourage it. As I’ve said before, what I also want to make sure though is that trade is benefiting the ordinary Kenyan and the ordinary Ethiopian and the ordinary Guinean and not just a few elites.”

  • On discrimination

“As somebody who has family in Kenya and knows the history of how the country so often is held back because women and girls are not treated fairly, I think those same values apply when it comes to different sexual orientations.”

President Obama said the US would continue to co-operate with Kenya and other East African nations to counter the threats from Islamist extremists groups.

He is due to address the global entrepreneurship summit in the capital, Nairobi this weekend, which the US State Department said could provide “a target for terrorists”.

But Mr Obama told the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel that there is a link between security and entrepreneurship.

“When they [people] have a sense of control of their own destiny, then they’re less vulnerable to the propaganda and twisted ideologies that have been attracting young people – particularly now being turbocharged through social media.”

Kenya is one of the top recipients of US military aid and in recent years has suffered attacks from Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabab militants.

Away from human rights and security, there is also the issue of trade. In 2014, trade between the two countries reached $2.2bn (£1.4bn).

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