US President Barack Obama will skip a visit to Kenya, his father’s birthplace, during his trip to Africa this week, as the American administration seeks to distance itself from the regime of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
His first extended trip to Africa will include visits to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania. Although a number of the US leader’s family still live in Kenya, the White House is concerned about the charges brought by the International Criminal Court against Mr Kenyatta and his Deputy President William Ruto, in connection with violent clashes that erupted in the wake of the country’s 2007 elections. The Kenyan President and Mr Ruto are accused of organising mobs and inciting violence, and face charges of crimes against humanity.
In the run-up to the poll that eventually installed Mr Kenyatta as President earlier this year, the top US diplomat for Africa signalled Washington’s worries in a conference call with reporters.
“Choices have consequences,” Johnnie Carson, the then US Assistant Secretary of State, said, without naming the candidates. “People should be thoughtful about those they choose to be leaders, the impact their choices would have on their country, region or global community,” he added.
Kenya’s government has been muted in its response to the president’s decision. “It’s for the Americans to decide where Obama goes,” spokesman Muthui Kariuki said. “There are 54 nations on the African continent and he’s only visiting three, so I don’t see the real big deal about not going to Kenya.”