Barack Obama rebuffed by Kenyan counterpart Kenyatta after urging end to LGBT discrimination

US President drew comparison with the discrimination faced by the African American community

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The Independent Online

Barack Obama has urged Kenya to treat homosexuals equally under the law, but his remarks were quickly dismissed by his Kenyan counterpart - who claimed LGBT rights were “not really an issue” in the country.

Mr Obama, the first sitting US president to ever visit Kenya, drew a comparison between the treatment of the LGBT community in Kenya and that of the African American community in the US.

"The state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation," Mr Obama said in the first press conference of the historic trip to his father’s home nation.

His remarks, made during a joint press conference on his first full day in the country, were seemingly brushed aside by his Kenyan counterpart.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, who spoke against LGBT rights in May of this year, told Mr Obama that gay and lesbian rights were “not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact.”

He went on to say that it was “very difficult” for his government to “impose on people that which they do not want”.

Despite this, the US president drew on his heritage to expound his point. "As an African-American in the US I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law,” he told reporters.

"That's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen," Mr Obama added. "When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread."

Journalists tweeting from the conference, which also touched on corruption, tweeted that Mr Obama appeared to be at his “most impassioned” when discussing gay rights.

Gay sex is currently punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Kenya. A 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Project claimed that 96 per cent of Kenyans believed that homosexuality was a way of life society should not accept.

Mr Obama’s visit to the country of his father has been greeted with massive fanfare. Kenya’s capital Nairobi has been given a partial makeover for the visit, with hundreds turning out to welcome the man they have affectionately labelled the nation’s “son”.

Additional reporting by Associated Press