The real theme of the historic visit to his father’s homeland was Barack Obama’s promise on Saturday to strengthen cooperation between Kenya and the United States in the fight against terrorism, and to provide greater logistical and financial support to Kenyan security forces.
The American president visited the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in the afternoon to deliver a flower wreath in memory of the victims of the 1998 bombing, an event that was a prelude to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Since then, the United States’ involvement in the war against the extremist group al-Shabab has continued more or less successfully and with discretion. Between drone attacks and commando operations, the U.S. has also contributed to the training and logistical support of troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Kenyans, who have paid dearly for their involvement in the fight against terrorism, had great expectations for the visit of the American head of state. In April, 148 students were massacred at the Garissa University College by militants from the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organization.
“This is an existential fight for us,” said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta during a joint press conference, “because the battle that we’re fighting is not a Kenyan war. Kenya just happens to be the frontier of it, being a neighbor to a country that for a long time has not had any kind of formal government.”
But the American president advocated for a more humane approach to the fight against terrorism, and denounced by implication the Kenyan police forces’ repression of Muslim minorities in the country. “Discrimination is the breeding ground for terrorism,” he stated during the press conference. “Human rights must be respected.”*
In the morning, the president went to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an annual summit begun in 2009 to strengthen economic cooperation and investment between the U.S. and Muslim communities.
He addressed more than 1,000 young entrepreneurs who came from around the world to exchange new ideas and meet potential investors. “Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideolog[y] of violence” he stated. “The U.S. and Kenya must fight the poison that militant extremists are feeding to our young people.”*
*Editor’s Note: Although accurately translated, these quotes could not be verified.