Obama in Kenya: A Homophile Trip?

Kenyan anti-gay marriage activists are resolutely awaiting the U.S. president who is preparing for his first official visit to his father’s country. Isn’t homophobia common throughout the entire continent?

To say the least, Barack Obama is awaited in the land of his biological father. The organizers of the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in which President Obama should be participating at the end of this month, are not the only ones awaiting him. Nor is Mama Sarah, the third wife of his paternal grandfather, who has offered to cook “all the traditional food” for the American president, once he agreed to make a detour at Kogelo, his biological father’s native village. Nor is Felix Kiprono, the “lawyer” who is offering 50 cows and 70 sheep for the hand of the president’s daughter.

Likewise, President Uhuru Kenyatta who was released from charges imposed by the International Criminal Court — a series of proceedings that once made the U.S. president’s trip to Kenya diplomatically unimaginable — is not the only one awaiting him. Gay marriage opponents, who got their fingers burnt by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to legally recognize same-sex unions, are also awaiting Barack Obama.

On July 6, a hundred-odd demonstrators in the streets of Nairobi shouted, “We want Obama, we want Michelle, and we want a child. We do not want Obama and Obama, we do not want Michelle and Michelle. We want Obama and Michelle and we want a child.”

Prior to this, at a service held on Sunday at the Africa Inland Church of Kenya, Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto attacked “a law on homosexuality promulgated in America.”* Later, the chairman bishop of the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya stated on television, not without making reference to the U.S. [Supreme Court] judges’ stance, that the concept of family entailed the need to be “fruitful and multiply.”

Macky Sall, Obama and the Death Penalty

The current tenant of the Oval Office will not be surprised that African officials are publicly confronting him about this subject. In June 2013, on his own land, Senegalese President Macky Sall sent Obama packing by throwing the issue of abolishing the death penalty in his counterpart’s face, while the latter brought up the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality. Obama should not be surprised or intimidated. In Kenya as in Senegal, Americans are the ones who have addressed the issue of defending gay rights. On July 2 in Nairobi, U.S. Ambassador Robert Godec publicly stated his president’s wish to see people “fully respect the rights of others.”

While waiting for Obama to tread upon the land of some of his ancestors, activists are rubbing salt in the wounds of a clear African homophobia. A few days ago, at the Morrocan Mawazine Festival, the singer from the British group Placebo sported a “489” tattoo, in reference to the number of the law that penalizes homosexuality in Morroco. A few hours earlier, in Rabat, law enforcement officers arrested two activists from the feminist group Femen who were kissing in front of the Hassan Tower, displaying [on a banner] the words “In gay we trust.”

Aren’t the U.S. and Kenyan stances on homosexual love an expression of cultural differences? The Zimbabwean president contests [the issue of homosexuality] sharply with arguments he draws from the Book of Genesis. In his response to Obama, Robert Mugabe attempted to use an original biblical exegete: “Even Satan wasn’t gay; he chose to approach naked Eve instead of naked Adam.” Would gods and devils therefore be gendered?

*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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