WASHINGTON (TIP): President Barack Obama will finally visit Kenya, the land of his father and his forbears, in July this year.
The US President has studiously avoided going to his paternal homeland in the six years plus he has been in the White House, perhaps apprehensive that it would provide political fodder for conservative wingnuts who have doubted if he was born in the United States and questioned his loyalty to the country, aside from his nationality.
But now that there are no more electoral battles to be fought, the White House on Monday announced that Obama will travel to Kenya in July to co-host a forum on entrepreneurship as part of an effort to support economic development in Africa.
Although he has been to Kenya thrice before, including once as US Senator, it will be his first visit as President, coming in the seventh year of his Presidency.
The US President still has family living in Kenya, including half-brother and other siblings, although his father Barack Obama Sr died more than 30 years ago.
Obama Sr came to the United States from Kenya for higher studies in 1959 and met Ann Durham at the University of Hawaii where they were both attending a Russian language class. They married soon after and Durham gave birth to Barack Obama in 1961.
They separated soon after, pursuing their own academic careers and divorcing when Barack Obama Jr was only two. The young Obama would see his father only once after that, when he was around ten years old, before Obama Sr returned to Kenya and would die in a road accident in 1982 when Obama Jr was 21.
The young Obama’s first known trip to Kenya was in 1988, when he spent five weeks there, according to his memoir Dreams from My Father. He returned to Kenya in 1992 with Michelle, then his fiance, and his half sister Auma, and again in 2006 during his first year in the US Senate.
But Kenya stayed off the radar thereafter although he has visited 47 other countries as President, including neighboring Tanzania and South Africa (twice).
A White House blog on the upcoming visit made no mention of Obama’s personal ties with Kenya although it alluded to it while pointing out that he has visited sub-Saharan Africa more than any other sitting president.
”Just as President Kennedy’s historic visit to Ireland in 1963 celebrated the connections between Irish-Americans and their forefathers, President Obama’s trip will honor the strong historical ties between the United States and Kenya -and all of Africa – from the millions of Americans who trace their ancestry to the African continent, to the more than 100,000 Americans that live in or visit Kenya each year,” it said.
Inasmuch as Obama is done and dusted with elections, the Kenya trip is certain to stir up the hard right wing which has thrived on the so-called birther controversy -insisting that Obama was not born in the United States and thus ineligible to be President of the United States under Article Two of US Constitution.
Although Obama released his birth certificate before he became President showing he was born in Hawaii, conspiracy theorists have maintained that it is a fake. Some polls have shown that up to 25 per cent of American still doubt Obama’s US birth.