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What’s going on around Kenya today – Sunday 26/07/2015

Obama touches hearts of Kenyans at Kasarani

United States president Barack Obama delivered a well-choreographed message to a gathering bringing together Kenya’s political rivals the ruling administration and the Opposition, the civil society and members of the public Kasarani indoor arena on Sunday morning.

Obama analysed the Kenyan problems blow by blow telling leaders Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and Raila Odinga and a dozen MPs to their faces how Kenya should be solving its issues.

He first praised Kenya as a country on the right path of progress with immense talent and potential but slowed down by corruption and ethnicity.

Obama emphasized the need for Kenya to uphold good governance, democracy and human rights to spur growth.

His powerful quotes sunk into the attentive minds of those at the arena as well as millions watching live on TV. Those on social media platforms quickly took to their accounts to share what came across as the most important.

The crowd cheers as US President arrives to speak at Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi. AFP PHOTO | SAUL LOEB
The crowd cheers as US President arrives to speak at Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi. AFP PHOTO | SAUL LOEB

Obama cracks ‘birther’ joke in Kenya

President Barack Obama in Kenya on Saturday cracked a joke about the most famous conspiracy theory that has dogged him since he became commander-in-chief.

“I suspect that some of my critics back home are suspecting that I’m back here to look for my birth certificate,” the President laughed while delivering a toast at a state dinner hosted by his Kenyan counterpart, President Uhuru Kenyatta. “That is not the case.”

“Birthers” believe Obama, whose late father was born in Kenya, was not born in the United States and thus is unqualified to be President.

The fringe movement began during the 2008 election season and persisted throughout Obama’s first term in office, until he released his long form birth certificate in 2011 that shows he was born in Hawaii.

US President Barack Obama (centre) and President Uhuru Kenyatta (third right) and other guests get down to a dance with Kenyan boy-band Sauti Sol during the state banquet at State House, Nairobi.
US President Barack Obama (centre) and President Uhuru Kenyatta (third right) and other guests get down to a dance with Kenyan boy-band Sauti Sol during the state banquet at State House, Nairobi.

Sauti Sol serenade VIPs at presidential dance party

This was no ordinary state dinner. President Obama and President Uhuru Kenyatta didn’t just toast each other on Saturday night, they danced together.

The meal featured the usual toasts between leaders, complete with effusive praise and a heavy emphasis on Obama’s Kenyan connections.

But the real fun began after a Kenyan band Sauti Sol serenaded Obama in English and Swahili and sang “Coming Home.”

They started by paying homage to the First Lady. “We are so sad that our mother Michelle could not come,” the lead singer said.

Once the band started to dance Obama got up, buttoned his jacket and joined in. The entire high table as well as several guests joined arms and swayed together to the music, with Obama sandwiched between his national security adviser Susan Rice and his sister Auma Obama.

The ‘great’ gays rights debate

People in Nairobi on Sunday gave a muted and measured response to US President Barack Obama’s firm support for gay rights during his visit to Kenya.

Standing alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta outside State House on Saturday, Obama answered a journalist’s question on gay rights by drawing equivalence between homophobia and racism.

“As an African-American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” Obama said.

The comparison is particularly stinging in Kenya, which, like other African countries, has a proud history of resisting and overcoming colonial rule by white foreigners.

“When you start treating people differently because they’re different that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode, and bad things happen,” said Obama, adding that treating people differently “because of who they love is wrong.”