A Kenyan news agency reports that U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to visit the country, his father's homeland, before he leaves office.

The Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) says Mr. Obama made the pledge in an exclusive interview on June 1 in Washington.

Mr. Obama has visited Kenya three times before but never since becoming president.  

Mr. Obama barely knew his father, who died in a car crash in 1982.  However, Kenyans closely followed Barack Obama's election as president and many consider him one of their own.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Kenya next week during a three-nation tour.

The White House has said Mr. Biden will discuss bilateral and regional security issues with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

KBC quotes President Obama as urging Kenyans to take part in an August referendum on a new constitution.  

He said the new constitution could help establish the rule of law, protect human rights, and reduce the ethnic violence that erupted after the disputed 2007 elections.

Mr. Obama said that regardless of whether Kenyans vote yes or no, he wants to see them participate.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.