The President of the United States has made true on his promise. President Obama will be returning to Kenya for the first time in almost a decade, and for the first time ever as president. Obama will make the trip in July and attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in addition to holding "bilateral meetings." This is actually the first time the GES is being held in a sub-Saharan African country such as Kenya, so Obama's trip marks an important moment — not just in his presidency, but for the country as a whole.
It was political unrest that initially prevented Obama from visiting the country of his father, who was born in Kogelo. Obama's last trip to Kenya was in 2006 as a U.S. senator. Around that time, the area was rocked by a massive drought, then plummeted into political unrest following the 2007 general election. Current Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta was under investigation for allegedly inciting violence following his controversial win, but had charges ultimately dropped last year because the country refused to hand over a sufficient amount of evidence.
Responding to a question during a Young African Leaders Initiative Town Hall meeting in 2013, the president added that he'd failed to because there were simply so many other deserving African countries to visit:
I’ve been to Kenya multiple times and there hadn’t been a sustained visit by me in West Africa; and then South Africa, given the importance of the work that we’re doing together; Tanzania is a country I hadn’t visited before. So I was trying to spread the wealth a little bit in terms of my visit.
He then counted down his tenure left as president, stating, "If in three years and seven months I’m not in Kenya, then you can fault me for not following through on my promise."
Right now, Kenya is in a further complicated state as Kenyatta attempts to bully a lengthy list of elected officials into stepping down, ironically over charges of corruption. Though the President will clearly primarily be in the country for an event outside of the guise of Kenyan politics, he's most certainly cognizant of the tenuous political climate. Opening a dialogue with the country could prove duly beneficial as the area continues to struggle with issues of drought, as does severely dry states like California.
Sadly, little has been mentioned regarding the President's itinerary. There is no word whether Obama will be visiting Kogelo or seeing his step-grandmother, the 90-year-old Sarah Obama, whose altruistic work in the region has been a focal point for the president in the past. The larger narrative of the trip is the fact that not only has Obama kept his promise, but that he's clearly committed to an often overlooked area.
Images: Getty Images