By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2015
Obama’s trip to Kenya, his first as president, is scheduled to take place four weeks after the White House was bathed in rainbow colors to mark the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring that same-sex marriage is a right.
At a small pro-family demonstration at the parliament in Nairobi Monday, organized by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, participants called on the American president not to raise the subject during his visit.
“It is important for us as Kenyans to know that the U.S. is not God,” local media quoted evangelical Bishop Mark Kariuki as saying, adding that Obama should not use the visit to “talk about the gay issue.”
Irungu Kangata, a lawmaker in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) party, was blunter: “We are telling Mr. Obama when he comes to Kenya this month and he tries to bring the abortion agenda, the gay agenda, we shall tell him to shut up and go home.”
According to The Standard of Nairobi, Kangata said Kenyans would demonstrate against Obama over the issue during his visit. Kenya’s The Daily Nation quoted several other lawmakers’ views on the matter. “Anybody who tries to come and preach to this country that they should allow homosexuality, I think he’s totally lost,” said TNA lawmaker Jamleck Kamau. “And I would also like to add, our son from the U.S., Barack Obama, when he comes here, to simply avoid that topic completely,” added Kamau, “because Kenyans will not be happy with him if he comes to bring the issue of homosexuality in this country.”
“Liberal thoughts are being entertained in some countries under the guise of human rights,” the speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi, told an Anglican Church congregation. “We must be vigilant and guard against it. We must lead an upright society and not allow obnoxious behavior as we have a responsibility to protect our children.”
Rose Mitaru, one of 47 female lawmakers representing counties across the country, said that allowing same-sex marriage in Kenya would open “floodgates of evil synonymous with the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.”
TNA lawmaker Cecily Mbarire urged the government to reject any foreign aid tied to efforts to legalize same-sex marriage.
On Sunday, Deputy President William Ruto delivered a church sermon in Nairobi in which he said homosexuality was “against the plan of God.” “God did not create man and woman so that men would marry men and women marry women,” The Daily Nation quoted him as saying. “Those who want to engage in those businesses, they can do it in their countries, and they can do it wherever it is they want. In Kenya, we will stand firm.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest indicated Monday that Obama would not avoid the topic during his visit. “We have been clear that when the president travels around the world, he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights,” he told a press briefing, in response to a question on the Kenyan criticism.
“I’m confident the president will not hesitate to make clear that the protection of basic universal human rights in Kenya is also a priority and consistent with the values that we hold dear here in the United States of America,” Earnest said.
‘Everybody has to be treated equally’
Obama is scheduled to visit Kenya later this month to open the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, an Obama initiative aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, particularly in Muslim societies. He will then visit Ethiopia for bilateral and African Union meetings. It will be his fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa during his presidency.
Obama’s last visit to the continent coincided with the June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, and the LGBT question came up during a joint press appearance with Senegalese President Macky Sall. Asked about the issue of homosexuality in Africa, Obama said he believed that “every country, every group of people, every religion have different customs, different traditions.” “But when it comes to how the state treats people, how the law treats people, I believe that everybody has to be treated equally,” he said. “I don’t believe in discrimination of any sort. That’s my personal view.”
In his response, Sall said Senegal was not ready to change to decriminalize homosexuality, and that countries should respect each other’s choices. He also said Senegal “does not discriminate in terms of inalienable rights of the human being.”
According to data compiled by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 76 countries around the world, 36 of them in Africa.
In May 2014, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, which reports to the African Union, passed a resolution calling on African countries to “end all acts of violence and abuse … including those targeting persons on the basis of their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.”