President Obama arrives in Kenya


  • 24 July 2015
  • From the section Africa
US President Barack Obama at Nairobi airport
President Obama arrived at Nairobi’s international airport, amid a huge security operation in the Kenyan capital

Barack Obama has arrived in Kenya on the first visit to his ancestral home as serving US president.

During his two-day visit Mr Obama will hold talks with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other top officials.

Mr Obama earlier told the BBC he would deliver a “blunt message” to African leaders about gay rights and discrimination.

He also said the trip to Kenya and then Ethiopia would show US commitment to fighting terror in East Africa.

BBC Africa Live updates from Kenya

President Obama’s Air Force One touched down at Nairobi’s international airport shortly before 20:10 local time ( 17:10 GMT).

He was greeted by President Kenyatta with a handshake and embrace.

Ahead of Mr Obama’s arrival, the Kenyan capital was in lockdown with many streets closed and people opting to stay at home.

The US president will hold talks on trade and investment, and also security and counter-terrorism.

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

His views on gay rights were explained in a wide-ranging interview with the BBC’s North America editor Jon Sopel before he left Washington. President Obama also said:

  • His failure to pass “common sense gun safety laws” in the US was the greatest frustration of his presidency
  • The UK must stay in the EU to have influence on the world stage
  • He is confident the Iran nuclear deal will be passed by Congress
  • Syria needs a political solution in order to defeat the Islamic State group
  • Despite racial tensions, the US is becoming more diverse and more tolerant.

Read the full transcript of his interview

‘Blunt talk’

This is Mr Obama’s fifth trip to Africa as president, but despite his close family links to Kenya, he has faced criticism in some African countries over the legalisation of gay marriage in the US.

However, the president told the BBC he would not fall silent on the issue.

The US leader also agreed 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, 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… 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.”

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