TIME Barack Obama

See Scenes From Obama’s Trip to Africa

President Obama spoke proudly of his Kenyan heritage on his third trip to sub-Saharan Africa, visiting Kenya before traveling to Ethiopia

TIME viral

Watch Obama Steal the Show by Dancing the Lipala During His Visit to Kenya

It seems the commander-in-chief can cut a rug like the best of them

We knew he could bring down the house singing Al Green and “Amazing Grace,” but we’d rarely seen Barack Obama put on his dancing shoes — until now.

Between stops in the busy itinerary of his visit to Kenya this weekend, which included visiting his father’s family and giving a ringing speech on Africa’s potential for innovation, Obama found time to dine at Nairobi’s State House. There, he joined Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, first lady Margaret Kenyatta, and U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice in doing the Lipala. A traditional dance common at rural celebrations, the Lipala has returned to mainstream popularity recently after Kenyan afro-pop stars Sauti Sol chose its moves to accompany the video of their hit song “Sura Yako (Your Face).”

The band, which performed at the dinner, posted a video on Instagram showing Obama getting down with fellow dignitaries, ably keeping up with the steps and clearly enjoying himself.

TIME Kenya

Obama Electrifies Kenyan Youth With a Speech From the Heart

Obama offered a prescription for the country's future, one that puts and end to corruption and to traditions that are holding the country back

Despite longstanding family ties to Kenya, U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Nairobi—the first by a serving U.S. President—has been largely an official affair, defined by bilateral meetings and entrepreneurship conferences.

That all changed on Sunday, when he addressed Kenyan youth at a sports stadium and spoke from the heart. As his convoy turned into Nairobi’s SafariCom Arena, he finally received the exuberant welcome that security precautions had all but denied him since his arrival two nights prior.

Crowds of men, women and children, some waving flags and banners welcoming him back to his father’s homeland, thronged the highway. Inside the arena, some 4,500 students, government officials and civil society leaders jumped to their feet as Obama’s half sister, Auma Obama, introduced a man who really had no need for introduction. By the time Obama took the podium, the crowd was ecstatic. “I love you!” shouted a member of the audience. “I love you too,” Obama said to the crowd.

Part state address, part commencement speech, Obama’s 40-minute talk started with a personal reminiscence of his first trip to Kenya in 1998, when he was a young law student seeking to learn more about his roots.

On that trip, he said, the airline lost his bags. “That doesn’t happen on Air Force One,” he joked.

He spoke of Kenya’s turbulent history, and of his grandfather’s job as a domestic servant for a colonial family, who, even as a grown man, was called “boy.” He referenced his father’s disappointment upon returning to Kenya after an education in the United States “in part because he couldn’t reconcile the ideas that he had for his young country with the hard realities that had confronted him. ” Those stories “show the enormous barriers that so many Kenyans faced just one or two generations ago.”

Kenya had changed, Obama noted. “A young, ambitious Kenyan today should not have to do what my grandfather did, and serve a foreign master. You don’t need to do what my father did, and leave your home in order to get a good education and access to opportunity. Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now,” he said, to an explosion of applause.

But it is still up to Kenyans to make sure that the trajectory of history continues to moved towards progress and opportunity, so that this new generation would not be disappointed like his father’s. Kenya, Obama said, “is at a crossroads, a moment filled with peril, but also enormous promise.”

To achieve that promise, Obama offered some hard-hitting prescriptions. Outdated traditions, the oppression of women, child marriages, ethnic tensions and the “cancer of corruption” must be done away with, he said. Ending corruption doesn’t start and end with tough laws, he added. “It requires a commitment by the entire nation—leaders and citizens—to change habits and to change culture.

To the surprise and delight of many in the audience, Obama spent several minutes speaking on women’s equality, girls’ right to an education, and even female genital mutilation, which is still practiced in some parts of Kenya. “Treating women and girls as second-class citizens, those are bad traditions,” he said. “They need to change. They’re holding you back.”

To drive home his point, he repeated himself. “These traditions may date back centuries; they have no place in the 21st century.”

Sandra Chebet, a 16-year-old student in the red and green trimmed blazer of Nairobi’s Maryhill Girls High School, said Obama’s stance on tradition was her favorite part. “For a long time people have said that women could not be successful in business and in government because of their traditional roles. Now I know that even though I am a girl, I can also be the best pediatrician. Actually, I knew that already, but after Obama’s speech, now everyone in Kenya knows that too.”

Obama also emphasized a need for inclusivity, referencing some of the government’s ham-fisted attempts to curb terrorism by isolating and alienating minority Muslim groups in Kenya.

The Somali terror group al Shabaab, which has killed hundreds of Kenyans in terror attacks over the past several years, is a real threat, said Obama. But “it is important to remember that violent extremists want us to turn against one another… Extremists who prey on distrust must be defeated by communities who stand together and stand for something different.”

He cited the American experience with its own Muslim minority, saying “those minorities make enormous contributions to our countries. These are our brothers; they are our sisters. And so in both our countries, we have to reject calls that allow us to be divided.”

Fifteen year-old Hamdi Ibrahim, draped in a white headcovering that went down to her waist, was delighted. “To see him standing and defending Muslims makes me feel empowered, and makes me feel that I have a support system.”

Upon departing the stage at the conclusion of his speech, Obama was thronged with fans waving camera phones and seeking selfies with the president.

Twenty-one year old medical student James Mugo managed to shake Obama’s hand, something he says he will remember for the rest of his life. “He held my hand for, like, five seconds. It was electrifying.”

Mugo, like many Africans, is no stranger to well-meaning lectures from Western leaders who say they know what Africa needs to progress. But this time it was different. “We heard some hard truths about Kenya’s problems, but it was not with chastisement or from a position of superiority,” says Mugo. “The fact that this time the advice was coming from someone who knows Kenya, who is of Kenya, that means it will have a much stronger impact.”

He has no doubt that Kenyan youth will take the messages to heart. “Obama’s speech has given us all great encouragement to be better as a nation,” he said, before melting back into a crowd of young Kenyans already starting to compare their selfies with the American president.

Read next: Watch Obama Steal the Show by Dancing the Lipala During His Visit to Kenya

Download TIME’s mobile app for iOS to have your world explained wherever you go

TIME Kenya

Obama Defends Gay Rights on Kenya Trip

The African country sentences homosexuals to prison time

There is perhaps no wider chasm between the United States and Africa than over the issue of gay rights. The tension was thrown into sharp relief during U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya, the first visit of a serving U.S. President to this East African Nation. In a joint press conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday, following what appeared to have been a warm and productive meeting behind closed doors, Obama made it clear that the issue of gay rights in Kenya remained unresolved.

“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,” Obama said. “I’m unequivocal on this.”

Kenyatta’s government has staunchly defended laws imposing up to 14 years in prison for homosexuality. Kenya and the United States, he said, shared many values, from a love for democracy, entrepreneurship and families.

Gay rights were not one of those values.

“There are some things that we must admit we don’t share—our culture, our societies don’t accept. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.”

As I wrote in a recent cover story on gay rights in Uganda, this issue has resonance across the continent.

By and large, Africa as a whole is far behind the United States and Europe in regards to acceptance of homosexuality. Legislated homophobia is on the rise across the continent, even as LGBT people have made historic gains elsewhere in the world. According to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center, a large majority of North Americans, Latin Americans and residents of the European Union now accept homosexuality. Same-sex marriages are legal in 20 countries, including the United States. But in Africa, where the vast majority of people—98% in Nigeria, 90% in Kenya and 96% in Uganda, Senegal and Ghana, according to the Pew poll—say homosexuality is unacceptable, many religious leaders have watched that progress with alarm. Conservative politicians have also sought to protect their nations from what they see as a Western import by drafting anti-gay legislation even more draconian than the colonial-era sodomy laws that remain on the books in many African countries.

“Over the last five years, we have seen more laws being proposed and being passed into law in Africa,” says Laura Carter, Amnesty International’s adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity. “Even in places where the laws have not changed, enforcement has increased.” Thirty-four of 54 African nations currently criminalize homosexuality. According to Amnesty, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia and Nigeria have implemented increasingly punitive penalties for people who engage in homosexual acts. Gambia now calls for life in prison. Mauritania, Sudan and parts of both Somalia and Nigeria permit courts to impose the death penalty in certain cases for individuals found guilty of same-sex activity.

The Pew survey also describes how intolerance for homosexuality tends to be more intense in communities where there are high levels of religious observance, and African nations stand out as some of the most observant in the world. Religious conservatives, Christian and Muslim alike, may be losing ground with the public on LGBT rights in the West, but in Africa, where church and mosque remain the cornerstones of society and politics, anti-­homosexual campaigners are determined to hold ground. Ty Cobb, global director for the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT-rights advocacy group, says the growing backlash against homosexuality in Africa over the past several years is a proxy war in the cultural conflict that is being lost by the evangelical Christian movement in the U.S. and beyond.

Kenyatta argued that Kenya had other priorities, listing heath, education and road development, along with greater representation of women in society. “This is why I repeatedly say that, for Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue,” he said. “Maybe once, like you have overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones.”

But when it comes to human rights, Obama made clear, it’s not so much a matter of priorities, but a matter of what is right. Drawing a comparison between anti-gay discrimination and the U.S. laws that once justified slavery and segregation, he brought in an unexpectedly personal angle. “As an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently, under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery, and they were wrong.”

He was not calling for a change in religious doctrine in Kenya, he said. “The state just has to say we’re going to treat everybody equally under the law.”

As Kenyatta made clear, little is likely to change in terms of Kenyan laws regarding gay rights. That was not the expectation, says U.S. presidential spokesman Ben Rhodes, who was accompanying Obama on the trip. Obama, he said, has been raising the issue during all his Africa travels. “Frankly, what we can do is keep a spotlight on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender] rights and raise this issue and make sure that governments know that they are going to be hearing about this from us and hopefully from our partners in the international community.”

Nonetheless, Obama’s passionate defense of equality in a country that has long claimed him, a grandson of Kenya, for their own, may yet plant a seed that leads to greater acceptance down the line.

TIME Kenya

Obama Pushes African Nations to Treat LGBT People Equally

"When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread"

(NAIROBI, Kenya)—President Barack Obama nudged African nations Saturday to treat gays and lesbians equally under the law, a position that remains unpopular through much of the continent. Obama’s Kenyan counterpart responded by calling the matter a “non-issue” for his country.

Obama tackled the sensitive issue on his first full day in Kenya, the country of his father’s birth. He drew on his own background as an African-American, noting the slavery and segregation of the U.S. past and saying he is “painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law.”

“That’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen,” Obama added during a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. “When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread.”

Kenyatta was unmoved, saying gay rights “is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact.”

A number of Kenyan politicians and religious leaders had warned Obama in outspoken terms that any overtures on gay rights would not be welcomed in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Obama’s visit to Kenya — the first by a sitting U.S. president — has been long sought by this East African nation where he is widely considered a local son.

Acknowledging that some Kenyans have been frustrated that it took him until the seventh year of his presidency to visit, Obama joked that he didn’t want the rest of Africa to think he was “playing favorites.” He will also visit Ethiopia on this trip.

Still, he noted the U.S. had concerns about violence that erupted in Kenya after its 2007 election. Kenyatta faced charges related to that violence in the International Criminal Court, though those charges were later dropped. Deputy President William Ruto, however, still faces charges at the ICC.

Obama said he was encouraged by statements Kenyatta has made about the need to root out corruption in the country, saying that’s one issue that could slow down Kenya’s economic growth and development.

Much of Obama’s discussions with Kenyatta centered on counterterrorism cooperation. Kenya has been grappling with deadly attacks from extremists, most notably Somalia-based al-Shabab, a network linked to al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab has conducted major attacks in Kenya, including the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall and an April attack in Garissa town that killed nearly 150 people.

“This is an existential fight for us,” Kenyatta said.

The two leaders opened their day-long meetings with a joint appearance at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a U.S.-sponsored business conference. Obama announced $1 billion in commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists.

“Africa is on the move,” Obama declared.

TIME Global Entrepreneur Summit 2015

Obama Sees Kenya as a Hotbed of Innovation — Not Terror

At the Global Entrepreneur Summit in Nairobi, the U.S. President focuses on how innovation and entrepreneurs are the key to Africa's future

Africa “is on the move,” President Obama told the world on Saturday. Speaking in Nairobi at the U.S.-sponsored Global Entrepreneur Summit, Obama told an audience of international innovators, investors, businessmen and government officials that the continent’s best route out of poverty and away from extremism is through supporting entrepreneurship. “It’s the spark of prosperity. It helps citizens stand up for their rights, and push back against corruption,” Obama said, after greeting the audience in Swahili, one of the languages of his Kenyan-born father.

While Obama said that his trip to Kenya, a first for a sitting American President, was in part personal—“there is a reason I am named Barack Hussein Obama,” he quipped to a roar of laughter—one of the principal drivers of his visit is to increase security partnerships in a region threatened by terrorism. Innovation and opportunity, Obama said, are the antidote. “Entrepreneurship offers a positive alternative to the ideologies of violence and division that all too often can fill the void when young people don’t see a future for themselves.”

Obama launched the Global Entrepreneur Summit in 2010 to encourage young innovators with mentorships, training and funding. As co-host with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama highlighted several Kenyan startups that are already changing the world, from crowd-sourcing platform Ushahidi to mobile banking innovation M-PESA. There are many more, he promised, and “each has the potential to be the next great Kenyan innovation.”

Obama didn’t have to look far for examples. In the audience was Erik Hersman, the American-born, Kenyan-educated co-founder of BRCK, a palm-size device that is changing how the developing world gets online. It’s a sturdy, battery-powered, portable server designed to deliver access to the Web for the estimated 800 million people in Africa who live off the Internet grid. The BRCK captures mobile phone signals using a data SIM card (which can be purchased anywhere in the world), and broadcasts it like a WiFi hotspot, even when there is no electricity. It’s water resistant, dust-proof and can survive being dropped on the ground. It will work wherever there is a signal, but is made for remote areas, as the logo printed on the back points out: If it can work in Africa, it can work anywhere.

“BRCK provides an ability to connect to content like we have never seen before,” said Erich Broksas, senior vice president for investment strategy at the Case Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based philanthropic impact investment organization. Broksas, who was at the Summit scouting for investment opportunities, said that Kenyan innovations like the BRCK are appealing because they are designed specifically for their environment. “We see a lot of great ideas coming through a MIT development lab that don’t work in the real world. BRCK is a global solution designed for Africa, but one that can work just as easily in Palo Alto or Alaska.”

For the moment, however, Hersman is focusing closer to home. He has partnered with Kenyan digital learning startup eLimu to produce a tablet computer system designed for the country’s primary school students. When co-founders Nivi Mukherjee and Marie Githinji first launched their tablet-based learning app, they quickly understood that their biggest challenge wasn’t going to be the software, but the hardware. Existing tablets were not rugged enough for the rigors of primary school. They were expensive to replace and difficult to repair. Not all schools had electricity. Many also lacked Internet, so the software couldn’t be updated. They distributed two-dozen tablets loaded with eLimu’s interactive learning app to one school in the pilot program, only to return three weeks later to find the tablets locked in a closet.

Githinji and Mukherjee turned to Hersman for help. “We needed hardware that meets the functionality requirements, price point, and rugged shelf life of Africa,” said Mukherjee. Hersman and the eLimu team applied the BRCK philosophy to create a tablet computer sturdy enough to handle conditions in a Kenyan primary school. Then they built a portable kit that comes with one BRCK and 40 of those tablets, each nestled in a slot that provides contact-charging, which helps avoid tangled wires and broken chargers. Instead of loading software on each tablet, they loaded it onto to the BRCK, which then pushes the information to the tablets wirelessly. The BRCK itself can be updated remotely, via cellular signal. Even if it is not within mobile range, it can push content stored on the device to the tablets. As long as there is at least some electricity for a few hours a day, even if from a solar panel or a car battery, the whole kit can be charged up and ready for another school day.

The 40-tablet kit sells for $5,000—a fraction of the cost of most one-laptop-per-child programs. And there is a potentially huge market: The government of Kenya has committed $170 million to bring digital learning to its 22,000 primary schools by 2016, part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 campaign pledge to improve the country’s education system. The Summit, said Hersman, will be a turning point for Kenyan startups. “Until now, the investment mindset has been ‘we will give you some money, but we really think of you as an aid recipient.’” By bringing in international investors, he said, the U.S. State Department is showing the world that “what is going on in Kenya isn’t just about safaris and slums and marathon runners. There are real businesses here providing real world solutions that have a global reach.” Echoing Kenyan frustration over being termed, by CNN, a “hotbed of terror,” Hersman evokes a better designation for his adopted country. Kenya, he said, is a hotbed of innovation.

TIME Kenya

Obama Says Africa Is ‘On the Move’ in Kenya Speech

"People are being lifted out of poverty"

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — President Barack Obama heralded Africa as a continent “on the move” Saturday as he opened a U.S.-sponsored business summit in Kenya, the East African nation where he has deep family ties.

“Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world,” Obama said. “People are being lifted out of poverty.”

Obama’s visit to Kenya — the first by a sitting U.S. president — has been highly anticipated in a nation that views him as a local son. The president’s late father was born in Kenya and many family members still live here, including his elderly step-grandmother.

“This is personal for me,” Obama said. “There’s a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama.”

Much of the president’s visit is focused on boosting business and security ties with Kenya, a growing economy grappling with the threat of terrorism — most notably from the Somalia-based al-Shabab network. Nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers and 200 American investors have joined Obama on his trip, which also includes a stop in Ethiopia.

Speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday, Obama announced more than $1 billion new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists. Half of the money will go to support women and young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses.

“If half of your team is not playing, you’ve got a problem,” Obama said, referring to women excluded from the formal economy.

Obama hosted the inaugural entrepreneurship summit at the White House in 2010. This year’s conference is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who co-hosted the summit with Obama, lamented that the continent’s security and other challenges, including the 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall, had created a negative reputation. He said he hoped Obama’s visit would help change the narrative about Kenya and Africa.

“Africa is the world’s newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity,” Kenyatta said. “Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair and indignity.”

After his speech to the summit, Obama toured an innovation fair highlighting the work of vendors working with his Power Africa initiative, which aims to double sub-Saharan access to electricity. As he perused solar panels and posed for photos, Obama acknowledged concerns that program’s progress has been slow, but said it would soon help millions and that building power plants takes time — even in the U.S.

Obama arrived in Nairobi late Friday and spent the night reuniting with his father’s family. Security was tight in the Kenyan capital, with some of the city’s normally bustling streets closed to traffic and pedestrians during his visit.

Still, there was palpable excitement in Nairobi for Obama’s long-awaited visit. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the main road from the airport and billboards bearing Obama’s picture dotted the city. Local newspapers marveled at the massive U.S. Secret Service contingent that accompanies Obama whenever he travels overseas.

Ahead of a formal meeting with Kenyatta on Saturday afternoon, Obama placed a wreath at the site of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. Obama bowed his head for a moment, then studied the names of the victims etched into a brick wall.

Extremists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. The Kenya attack killed more than 200 Kenyans and 12 Americans at the embassy. Thousands were injured.

TIME White House

Obama Reunites With Father’s Family in Kenya

This is Obama's first trip to Kenya as U.S. President

(NAIROBI, Kenya)—Fulfilling the hopes of millions of Kenyans, Barack Obama returned to his father’s homeland Friday for the first time as U.S. president, a long sought visit by a country that considers him a local son.

The president spent the evening reuniting with his Kenyan family, including his elderly step-grandmother who made the trip to the capital of Nairobi from her rural village. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the main road from Nairobi’s airport, and billboards heralding Obama’s trip dotted the city.

“I don’t think that Kenyans think of Obama as African-American. They think of him as Kenyan-American,” said EJ Hogendoorn, deputy program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group.

Obama’s link to Kenya is a father he barely knew, but whose influence can nonetheless be seen in his son’s presidency.

Obama has spoken candidly about growing up without his Kenyan-born father and feeling “the weight of that absence.” A White House initiative to support young men of color who face similar circumstances has become a project dear to Obama, one he plans to continue after leaving the White House.

In Africa, Obama has used his late father’s struggle to overcome government corruption as a way to push leaders to strengthen democracies. He’s expected to make good governance and democracy-building a centerpiece of his two days of meetings and speeches in Nairobi, as well as a stop next week in Ethiopia.

“In my father’s life, it was partly tribalism and patronage and nepotism in an independent Kenya that for a long stretch derailed his career,” Obama said during a 2009 trip to Ghana, his first visit to Africa as president. “We know that this kind of corruption is still a daily fact of life for far too many.”

The president’s father, Barack Obama, Sr., left Kenya as a young man to study at the University of Hawaii. There, he met Stanley Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas. They would soon marry and have a son, who was named after his father.

The elder Obama left Hawaii when he son was just two years old, first to continue his studies at Harvard, then to return to Kenya. The future president and his father would see each other just once more, when the son was 10 years old. Obama’s father died in a car crash in 1982, at age 46.

“I didn’t have a dad in the house,” Obama said last year during a White House event for My Brother’s Keeper, his initiative for young men. “I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.”

Obama’s first trip to Kenya nearly 30 years ago was a quest to fill in the gaps in the story of his father’s life. In his memoir “Dreams From My Father,” Obama wrote that at the time of his death, “my father remained a mystery to me, both more and less than a man.”

What Obama uncovered was a portrait of a talented, but troubled man. An economist for the Kenyan government, the senior Obama clashed with then-President Jomo Kenyatta over tribal divisions and allegations of corruption. He was ultimately fired by the president, sending him into a tailspin of financial problems and heavy drinking.

The Kenyan leader Obama will meet with this weekend, Uhuru Kenyatta, is the son of the president his father confronted decades ago.

Obama met most of his Kenyan family for the first time on that initial trip to his father’s home country. As he stepped off Air Force One Friday, he was greeted by half-sister Auma Obama, pulling her into a warm embrace. The siblings then joined about three dozen family members at a restaurant at the president’s hotel for a private dinner.

Logistical constraints and security precautions prevented Obama from visiting Kogelo, the village where his father lived and is buried, on this trip. Sarah Obama, the step-grandmother he calls “Granny,” still lives in the village.

Despite the intense focus on the American leader’s local roots, the White House has cast the trip as one focused on the relationship between the U.S. and Kenya, not the president and his family. Officials say Obama’s agenda is heavily focused on trade and economic issues, as well as security and counterterrorism cooperation.

The president is traveling with nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers, along with 200 U.S. investors attending the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha did not accompany the president.

Auma Obama said she believed her late father would be proud to see his son return to Kenya as American president.

“He’d be extremely proud and say, ‘Well done,'” she said in an interview with CNN. “But then he’d add, ‘But obviously, you’re an Obama.'”

 

TIME Kenya

See How Kenyan Political Cartoonists View Obama

An exhibit of political cartoons in Nairobi is timed for Obama's first visit to the country as a U.S. President

Correction appended, July 25

President Barack Obama’s trip to Kenya marks the first time an American leader has ever visited the East African nation, and residents of the capital, Nairobi, put up banners, billboards and flags to celebrate the occasion. Over at PAWA254, an artists’ collective that prides itself on speaking truth to power, organizers prepared a different kind of welcome: a cartoon retrospective spanning Obama’s association with Kenya, from his visit as a senator in 2006 to his return this month.

“The idea was to explain how perceptions of Obama have changed since he was last here in 2006,” says award-winning Kenyan political cartoonist Patrick Gathara, who launched the exhibit just as Obama’s plane was touching down. (Obama first visited Kenya in 1988, but cartoonists back then weren’t paying attention to a gawky teenager’s pilgrimage to his father’s birthplace in a rural village.)

When Obama was elected President in 2008, Kenya declared a national holiday. But Gathara says that Obama’s image, charted through the prism of Kenya’s editorial cartoons, has suffered through the years from a U.S.-born American politician returning to his father’s birthplace to a historic presidential hopeful to the ultimate symbol of American might, for both good and bad. “In 2006 he was welcomed as Kenyan coming from abroad, but now people see him as an American President, and that carries a lot of baggage,” says Gathara. Relations between the U.S. and Kenya hit a low point over the 2013 Kenyan presidential elections, when Obama’s State Department was perceived to be critical of Kenya’s current president, Uhuru Kenyatta. Johnnie Carson, then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said that the United States did not have a preferred candidate in the election, but that “choices have consequences,” a comment that was widely taken as a slur against Kenyatta, who came to power in 2007 through a disputed, and violent, election.

Though the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court (ICC), Kenyans believe that the U.S., and Obama in particular, backed a 2012 indictment against Kenyatta alleging that he’d orchestrated the 2007 violence. The charges were withdrawn in December 2014 for lack of sufficient evidence.

The ICC theme features frequently in the cartoon exhibition. So too do pointed commentaries on U.S. calls for ending discrimination against homosexuals in Africa, a touchy subject in a country, that like most of Africa, has a hard time accepting homosexuality.

Gathara says he personally believes in equal rights for Kenyan homosexuals, but adds that it has been a difficult subject to tackle for cartoonists—especially since there is a knee jerk resistance to American lecturing among Africans, no matter how justified the lesson. Cartoonists, he says, too often simply reflect public opinion. “I think it is time that we as cartoonists stop pandering to our audience and challenge them instead, by looking at how we deal with our own issues and our own problems.”

Other cartoons in the exhibit speak to a more universal theme: that of a President who has taken a beating during his time in power. Another theme is waning American influence, as Kenya, tired of American lectures, courts China, which has invested more than $5 billion in the East African nation since 2011.

Even though Kenyans are tried of being told how to act by the U.S., some, like Gathara, hope that Obama’s visit will bring more than just improved relations, goodwill and a few nice speeches. Kenya, he says, has a lot of problems, from insecurity to terrorism and corruption—and the country’s leadership doesn’t seem to be doing much to address those issues. “Ours is a government that responds to pressure, not nice words. So I hope behind closed doors, Obama is telling our leaders to stop running this country like a game and to start doing their jobs, so we, as Kenyans, can keep doing ours.” There is a cartoon somewhere in that, he muses. He is just waiting to see how the Obama visit goes before putting it in pictures.

Correction: The original story misstated the amount of Chinese investment in Kenya since 2011. It is more than $5 billion.

TIME Kenya

Shoppers Flock to Kenya Mall 2 Years After Attack

Kenya Westgate Mall Re-opens
Ben Curtis—AP A boy plays in a supermarket shopping cart as other shoppers visit the reopened Westgate Shopping Mall, nearly two years after a terrorist attack there left at least 67 people dead, in the capital of Nairobi on July 18, 2015.

"We could have been hurt but our spirits have not been broken"

(NAIROBI, Kenya)—Hundreds of shoppers Saturday thronged through the re-opened Westgate Shopping Mall in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi nearly two years after an extremist attack there left at least 67 people dead.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero cut a ribbon during the ceremony which came after two years of repairs from the damage caused by security forces battling four gunmen from Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group in September 2013.

The attack on the upscale shopping center shocked the nation and led to a four-day siege by security forces, which destroyed part of the roof when the army fired rocket propelled grenades to dislodge the attackers.

“We could have been hurt but our spirits have not been broken, it is a demonstration of the determination and the positivity and the resilience and the indomitable spirit of the Kenyan people,” said Kidero. “I know there will be apprehensions but, as a country, we are safer.”

Brighton Salamba, 25, the manager at Tapas Ceviche Bar, said he was happy to finally be back at work and described how he underwent counselling sessions paid for by his employer to get over the trauma from the experience.

He managed to escape the attackers by locking the door of the restaurant and crawling up a ventilator shaft with 25 other people. The group moved through the ducts until they reached another restaurant and fled through an exit, Salamba recalled.

“I thanked God. We could hear the screams and gunshots,” he said. “We lost two colleagues in the attack.”

Shoppers will get a 10 percent discount for every $30 spent at the 80,000 square foot (7,400 square meter) complex which is expected to employ more than 250 staff.

American fast food chain Pizza Hut will also open for the first time in Kenya at the mall.

Al-Shabab justified the attack as revenge on Kenya for sending its troops to Somalia to fight the militants.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com