US president criticises treating women as second-class citizens in rousing address in Kenyan capital that also offers insight into his African heritage
Barack Obama offered a poignant glimpse into his African heritage and went on the offensive against female genital mutilation and other “bad traditions” that treat women as second-class citizens, in a speech in Nairobi.
The US president addressed 5,000 Kenyans in the country’s capital on Sunday, in the centrepiece event of his first visit to his father’s homeland since he was elected.
“I am proud to be the first American president to come to Kenya and of course I’m the first Kenyan-American to be president of the United States,” he said, prompting a cheer that almost blew the lid off a sports arena bedecked in US and Kenyan flags.
Obama was introduced to the rapturous crowd by his half-sister, Auma, who looked after him on his first trip to the east African country in 1987. “The first time I came to Kenya things were a little different,” he said. “I arrived at Kenyatta airport, the airline had lost my bags. That doesn’t happen on Air Force One. They always have my luggage close to me.”
Auma had picked him up in an old VW Beetle that broke down four or five times. Obama said: “I slept on a cot in her apartment. Instead of eating at fancy banquets with the president we were drinking tea and eating ugali. So there wasn’t a lot of luxury. Sometimes the lights would go out. But you know, there was something more important than luxury on that first trip and that was a sense of being recognised, being seen.”