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Kenyatta: ICC, Gay Rights Nonissues During Obama Visit

  • Gabe Joselow

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, left, speaks to the media about the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, among other issues, at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, July 21, 2015.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, left, speaks to the media about the upcoming visit of U.S. President Barack Obama, among other issues, at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, July 21, 2015.

During an address to the nation, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said security and trade will top the agenda during U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the country later this week.

However, Kenyatta sidestepped more controversial issues including the International Criminal Court charges against his deputy and an outcry over gay rights.

Speaking from State House in Nairobi Tuesday, Kenyatta said security and investment go hand in hand, and both will be discussed during Obama’s visit.

Obama is coming to Kenya to co-host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) along with the Kenyan president and to hold bilateral meetings.

Strained relations

Relations between the two countries have been strained in the past due to International Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 election.

Kenyatta said Obama’s visit is a sign of strong ties between the two countries.

“All I can say is that those who have doubted the strength of the partnership and friendship between our two countries or the depth of our engagement had better re-examine those assumptions," he said.

Charges against Kenyatta have been dropped, while Ruto and another defendant continue to face trial.

The Kenyan president said Ruto will not be excluded from meetings with the American president.

“Last I recall, the deputy president was part of this government, so we shall all be meeting and proceeding with what we need to do," Kenyatta said.

Gay rights concerns

While some politicians in Kenya have raised concerns Obama will bring a gay rights agenda with him to Kenya following the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling protecting gay marriage, Kenyatta called this a “nonissue” and said it was not part of the agenda for talks.

He also emphasized the importance of the entrepreneurship summit, which he said promotes Kenya’s reputation for “innovation and enterprise.”

“This is the very first time the summit has come to Sub-Saharan Africa and I strongly believe in its choice of Kenya, the GES acknowledges the progress and potential our nation and its leadership on the continent," Kenyatta said.

He said Kenya could benefit from increased investment in infrastructure, health care and manufacturing.

Obama is expected to attend the summit during the weekend and to deliver a public address before traveling to Ethiopia.

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