Obama, Kenyatta agree to disagree on gay rights

President Uhuru Kenyetta welcoming Obama to Kenya

President Uhuru Kenyetta welcoming Obama to Kenya

US President Barack Obama and his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta have differed on the gay rights issue.

During a press conference at the State House in Nairobi, Obama stressed all people including gays should be treated equally under the law whereas his host Kenyatta maintained his stance that the gay rights issue is “a non-issue” as there’s more pressing issues his government and Kenyans should be focusing on.

The disagreement follows a heated debate that has been raging in Kenya on whether or not to allow the visiting US President to speak freely about homosexual rights and same-sex marriage.

In the weeks and days leading to Obama’s visit, Kenyan politicians including the Deputy President William Ruto, members of parliament, nongovernmental organisations and ordinary Kenyans had threatened to protest “America’s gayism” during the US president’s stay in Kenya.

Responding to a journalist’s question on Kenya’s record on gay rights, Obama strongly stated the government should desist from any kind of discrimination.

“I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law and that there is observing of equal protection under the law and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation,” Obama said

The US President hastened to add that “and I say that recognizing that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs but the issue is how does the state operate relative to people, if you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they are doing to anybody but because they are different, that’s the path whereby freedoms start to erode, and bad things happen”

Obama went on to argue that when governments engage in any form of discrimination using the law, there is no limit. He cited the United States as an example where things like racism, slavery were sanctioned by the state.

The visibly irritated Obama opined law abiding citizens who do things the right way shouldn’t be treated differently because of who they love, and practices of the state discriminating against them are wrong and they stop.

Weighing in on the touchy subject, Kenyatta recognized Kenya and the United States have common values like democracy, family and entrepreneurship but vehemently begged to differ on the issue of gay rights

“There are somethings we must agree we don’t share, our culture, our societies don’t accept, it’s very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that they themselves don’t accept,” Kenyatta said adding that “that’s why I have repeatedly said that for Kenyans today the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue”

President Kenyatta thinks Kenyans should focus their energies on issues like healthcare, women, education, entrepreneurship and roads and infrastructure.