President Barack Obama is in Ethiopia Monday, the first sitting American president to visit East Africa’s second most populous nation. He’s holding talks with Ethiopian and African Union leaders on counterterrorism, human rights and regional security.
Obama wrapped up a two-day visit to Kenya Sunday, where he urged leaders in his father’s homeland to root out corruption, treat women and minorities as equals and protect the rights of homosexuals.
“I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this,” the president said. “I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.”
But in a tense exchange, Kenya’s president rejected Obama’s message on gay rights, saying it was one value Christian Kenya does not share with the United States.
“The fact of the matter is that Kenya, the United States, we share so many values, but there are some things that we must admit we don’t share — our culture, our society don’t accept,” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
“This is why I repeatedly say that for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” he continued. “We want to focus on other areas that are day-to-day living for our people.”
In Kenya, homosexual relations carry a punishment of imprisonment.
In this overwhelmingly Christian nation, many residents shrugged off the U.S. president’s lecture on gay rights.
“Of course, the way President Obama talked about gays and what have you, lesbianism or transgender, whatever, according to him, you know, we took him as an American. He was answering like an American,” Nairobi resident Ibrahim Lincoln said. “But according to our African cultures, the Christian beliefs — we say no.”