Kenyatta and Obama to Talk Security and Flights

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said yesterday that improving security co-operation and trade links would top the agenda when US President Barack Obama visits at the weekend.

A key Western ally in the battle against the spread of militant Islam out of Somalia, Kenya’s security agencies receive training and equipment from the US, Britain and Israel.

Yet over the past two years the country has suffered a series of major attacks by Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, including a massacre in April of 148 people at a university near the Somali border.

The violence has hurt Kenya’s tourism industry, vital to its economy, and has piled pressure on Kenyatta to improve security.

“The fight against terror will be central [to discussions with Obama]. We have been working in very close co-operation with US agencies,” Kenyatta said, without elaborating.

Obama’s visit to his father’s homeland to co-host the Global Entrepreneurship Summit with Kenyatta, has been touted by Kenya as global recognition of economic strides made in the past decade.

Kenyatta said he wanted more US companies to work with Kenyan firms in the energy and health sectors, as well as on infrastructure development.

Establishing direct flights between Kenya and the US would be on the agenda of the visit as the lack of such a link was hurting business and tourism, Kenyatta said. He hoped Obama’s visit would help Kenya obtain the US regulatory status required for direct flights there.

US officials have previously cited concerns about security measures at Nairobi’s main airport as the reason the US regulator has not allowed direct flights to Kenya.

On the possibility of discussing gay rights, an issue close to Obama’s heart, Kenyatta was dismissive. “It’s a non-issue to the people of this country and it’s definitely not on our agenda at all,” he said. “We as a country, as a continent, are faced with much more serious issues which we would want to engage the US and all our partners with.”