When Barack Obama visited his father’s homeland of Kenya in 2006, thousands flocked to the streets to see the fast-rising U.S. senator whom many embraced as if he were a native son.
Now, Obama is preparing to make his first visit to Kenya as U.S. president for a global entrepreneurship summit there in July, the White House said Monday. While Obama has traveled throughout Africa as president, visiting Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa, he steered clear from Kenya for nearly a decade, in part because of unrest and political considerations there, including a case by the International Criminal Court against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, which was dropped last December.
The Kenyan government is co-hosting the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, the first time the meeting will be held in sub-Saharan Africa. The trip may also provide an opportunity for the president to return to Kogelo, the village in western Kenya where his late father was raised, and to reunite with step-grandmother Sarah Obama, who is in her mid-90s and behind a foundation benefitting children orphaned by the AIDS epidemic. The White House on Monday declined to say whether Obama would visit relatives or to preview any aspects of the trip. In 2006, he brought his family to Kogelo and he and his wife took HIV tests to encourage others to get tested.
Kenyans in recent years have expressed frustration that Obama has stayed away. At a town hall meeting in South Africa in 2013, Obama explained some of his considerations, and he told a youth leader from Nairobi that “if in three years and seven months I’m not in Kenya, then you can fault me for not following through on my promise.” If the trip announced goes forward as planned, he’ll beat his deadline.