U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi on Friday ahead of a five-day, two-nation African tour.
Obama’s arrival in the birthplace of his father has been greeted with high expectations and enthusiasm.
Here are some key facts about Obama’s Africa visit.
1. President Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Kenya. Also, Mr. Obama’s first visit to Kenya, and later Ethiopia as president will be the fourth time he has traveled to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office — the most of any sitting U.S. president.
2. However, this is not Obama’s first time in the east African country. He visited Kenya for the first time as a 27-year old in 1988. Further visits occurred in 1992 and as a U.S. senator in 2006.
3. Kenya will close its airspace for a 50-minute window ahead Mr. Obama’s arrival in the capital Nairobi on Friday, according to the country’s civil aviation authority, the KCAA. Kenyan airspace will also be closed for a further 40 minutes on Sunday when President Obama leaves for neighbouring Ethiopia.
4. In Ethiopia on Tuesday, President Obama will become the first U.S. President to address the African Union at its headquarters in Addis Ababa. White House officials say Obama’s primary focus in Kenya and Ethiopia will be on trade, economic growth and the evolution of US-African relations.
5. There is an overwhelming security presence in the capital, Nairobi. The city’s police commander Benson Kibue said on Wednesday that 10,000 police officers—roughly one quarter of the entire national force—would be deployed to the capital ahead of Obama’s arrival.
6. U.S. presidential visits are not a small affair. Obama’s three-nation tour of Africa in 2013 was estimated to have cost between $60-100 million. For context, Bill Clinton’s 1998 six-nation Africa tour cost $42.8 million—not including Secret Service expenses which were classified—according to the US Government Accountability Office.
7. On Obama’s Kenya itinerary is a speech at the Global Entrepreneurial Summit on Saturday morning; a visit to memorial park to remember those who died in 1997 US embassy bombing in the afternoon; a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and a state dinner in Nairobi on Saturday evening; as well as an arena speech in Nairobi and meeting with civil society leaders on Sunday.
8. Obama will not visit his father’s ancestral home of Nyan’goma Kogello, in the east of the country. However, members of Mr. Obama’s extended family, including his step-grandmother whom the president calls “granny” (though they are not blood relatives), are expected to come to Nairobi and meet with him privately and attend some public events. The president’s half-brother, Malik Obama, also a son of Obama Sr., was expected in Nairobi as well.
9. The visit has not been without its critics. The Kenyan government has spent at least $500,000 (460,000 euros) to carry out the face-lifting project, which Nairobi residents dubbed “Obamacare” – a snide at the derisive term used by critical American Republicans of the U.S. President’s signature healthcare reform law. Ethiopia released from prison six journalists whose work was critical of the government. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Ethiopia is the second-most prolific jailer of journalists in Africa, behind its neighbour Eritrea, an act which has been referred to as ‘tokenism.’
10. Kenyans have been so enamoured with Barack Obama that they’ve even been naming their children after the U.S. President. In a society where a name is seen as a marker of future prospects, being called “Barack Obama” is a display of parental ambition.
Sources: The BBC, CBS, The Mail & Guardian and Deutsche Welle.
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