Finally, seven years after becoming the leader of the free world, Barack Obama made a historic visit to his ancestral home, Kenya. Air Force One touched down at Kenyatta international Airport at 2010hrs local time.
He was received by Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta among other high profile dignitaries, and of course his beloved sister, Auma Obama.
After signing the visitors book and mingling for a few minutes, President Obama surprised everyone by offering his sister a ride in the presidential limousine, commonly referred to as “The Beast”. This he later joked about saying that he was simply repaying a favour he owed her from many years ago, since on his first visit to Kenya his sister was the only one who came to pick him up in her beat-up Volkswagen, which broke down numerous times on their trip to her house.
Obama’s motorcade was cheered along by thousands of Kenyans who had thronged the highway to get a glimpse of their ‘son’ as he made his way to have dinner with his extended Kenyan family at Villarosa Kempinski hotel.
On Saturday, Obama and Uhuru Kenyatta jointly opened the GES 2015 summit, where a lot of issues concerning Africa were discussed with the world’s top business leaders who attended the summit.
Later that evening he was hosted for a state dinner by his counterpart at Statehouse Nairobi, and after a sumptuous meal Obama got jiggy and busted a few moves when the Kenyan band Sauti Sol performed their hit song “Sura yako”.
Sunday was a historic day as Obama met Kenya’s youth at the Kasarani sports Complex. He didn’t shy away from talking about touchy issues such as corruption.
“Every shilling that’s a bribe could be put in the pockets of someone doing an honest day’s work,” he said.
He also touched on Gender issues by saying, “Treating women as second-class citizens is a bad tradition — it’s holding you back,”
He also condemned the lack of gay rights in a nation where homosexuality is punishable by years in prison, describing it as “wrong, full stop.” Unswayed, Kenyatta responded by making it clear that gay rights are a “nonissue” in his country.
He gave a tough love message and this greatly endeared him to the youth and while he alternated between his official and personal role by speaking proudly of his heritage, describing himself as a “Kenyan-American” President, and often referring to his family. He also used Swahili words and local slang at every possible opportunity. “Hawayuni!” he greeted the delighted crowd in one instance, a popular street slang for “how are you guys!”
He later went to Kenyatta University (KU) to meet with civil rights groups, where to everyone’s surprise the meeting was held in a small cozy room where his protection detail was hardly seen. He engaged freely with people, joking and generally having a good time, while also impressing attendees.
“I didn’t expect him to be so down to earth and so attentive even to somebody like me,” said an excited Vincet Kyalo a human rights activist who attended the KU meeting.
“He is funny and very candid I really I’m surprised, very different from what we see on TV. He shows concern to everyone who is addressing him. I even got to shake his hand!” said Ruth Wekesa smiling, unable to contain her joy.
President Obama’s trip was both historic and unique. He is the first sitting head of state from U.S.A to visit Kenya and he came with all the security trappings of power related with his position.
Many Kenyans were awed by the the show of might since most of the military hardware displayed had only been seen in televisions. Kenyans even got to see Marine One and the famous “Beast”, which were sights to behold.
President Obama also took time to remember the victims of the 1998 terrorist bombings of the US embassy in Nairobi at the memorial plaque.
His visit was unlike any other – not just for him, but for a country that considers him a long-lost son. He made history and captivated a nation.