US president Barack Obama, visiting his late father’s homeland for the first time as president, launched an unprecedented defence of gay rights in Africa, telling Kenya’s president that the state has no right to punish people because of “who they love”. Homosexual acts are illegal in Kenya and surveys show nine in 10 people find them unacceptable.
Obama personalised the issue by comparing homophobia to racial discrimination that he had encountered in the United States: “When you start treating people differently, because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. And bad things happen. When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. 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”
The Kenyan president publicly disagreed with Obama. “There are some things that we must admit we don’t share,” Kenyatta said, insisting that gay rights “is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans”. He added: “It’s very difficult for us to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept.” Watch the remarks