Introducing himself as the U.S.’s first Kenyan-American president, Barack Obama sought to use his unlikely success story and personal ties to his father’s homeland to inspire a country he described as “at a crossroads.”
Mr. Obama, in a speech on Sunday before several thousand Kenyans at an indoor sports arena, said Kenya is caught between intensifying security concerns over the spread of terrorism and the promise of a democracy with increasing economic opportunities.
“I’m here as a friend who wants Kenya to succeed,” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Obama, who has largely left focusing on Africa policy to his second term, said the U.S. would increasingly partner with Kenya on economic and security issues. At the same time, he outlined a broader vision for how he hopes Kenya could progress, rooted in internal changes to the country’s political and economic culture.
In the signature speech of his long-awaited, two-day visit to the nation where his father was born, Mr. Obama cited rooting out government corruption, expanding human rights and creating a society more inclusive of women and girls as critical to the country’s future.
“Imagine you have a team, and you don’t let half the team play—that’s stupid,” he said, referring to the traditional treatment of women and girls in African cultures.
“Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right,” Mr. Obama said. “It doesn’t mean it defines your future.”
Mr. Obama was introduced by his Kenyan half sister, Auma Obama. As he has been introduced publicly throughout his time in Kenya, she called him by his full name: Barack Hussein Obama.
“He gets us,” she said. “He’s one of us.”
Much of the crowd were students invited to hear Mr. Obama’s message of youth empowerment.
Michael Amol, a 23-year-old university student, said Mr. Obama “talked about the real issues we are dealing with.” He said Kenyan leaders don’t usually talk so frankly about corruption or Kenya’s tribal divides.
“The youth have been used by the political elite for their gains but when it comes to solid advice, they have nothing.” Asked if Obama had any solid advice, he said, “Yes—I should not let my background dictate what my future will be.”
Mr. Obama is set to travel to Ethiopia later Sunday.
The crossroads Mr. Obama said Kenya is at was inherent in his choice of venue for his speech, which was the closest he had come during the trip to interacting with regular Kenyans.
The president spoke at an arena inside the sports complex where the Kenyan government held more than 1,000 ethnic Somalis in April 2014 during a weeklong security crackdown sparked by a grenade attack in the predominantly Somali neighborhood of Eastleigh.
dont you love how we go to other countries and tell them how bad they are and what they have to do to be like us living without “sin”..look in your own backyard first..