The White House has downplayed demands by a section of Kenyan leaders for President Barack Obama to keeps off gay talk during his impending visit.
Obama has used previous trips to Africa to urge governments to decriminalise homosexuality, but heads led by Deputy President William Ruto have warned him not to talk about it.
The US President is not expected to shy off any topic, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, in response to a question on the matter, during a press briefing on Tuesday.
“I had not been made aware of that particular announcement from Kenya. Obviously, we have been clear that when the President travels around the world, he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights,” he said.
“I am confident that the President will not hesitate to make clear that the protection of basic universal human rights in Kenya is also a priority consistent with values we hold dear in the United States of America.”
The US Supreme Court recently legalised same sex marriage in all of its 50 states, igniting debate worldwide.
Obama hailed the ruling saying recognising the marriages was a victory for the people of America.
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal. The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times,” he said after the ruling.
Speaking at AIC Ziwani Church in Kamukunji constituency last Sunday, Ruto said he was ready to defend the Kenya against homosexuality.
“We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things. I want to say, as a Christian leader, that we will defend our country, we will stand for our faith and our country,” he said.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said Parliament and citizens have the capability “to sanction any advances perceived to encroach on our social fabric”.
“We will demonstrate firmness against such obtrusions,” he assured at a separate function in Embu last Sunday.
Majority Leader Aden Duale said the Jubilee Government will resist pressure to adopt same sex marriage policies.
“We want to tell Obama that if one of the agendas of his visit is to push for the adoption of same sex marriage, we will not accept,” he said.
“As a Muslim and a leader in the Jubilee administration I must tell the President the truth about issues that are dear to the Muslim community and I am happy that he listens.”
But State House Spokesman Manoah Esipisu told journalists in Nairobi that Obama is free to talk on whichever subject he pleases.
“Kenya cannot tell President Barack Obama what he will and will not say. The government believes in the freedom of expression as enshrined in the constitution,” he said.
This does not appear to be the government’s position as Attorney General Githu Muigai has appealed a court order allowing the registration of a gay lobby group.
Obama, who will be in the country on July 25, is set to address the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit and hold bilateral talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
There have been talks among the US protocol team, Parliamentary leadership, the opposition and civil society on the possibilities of Obama addressing them separately.