President Uhuru Kenyatta has reiterated his stance that gay rights is a non-issue, saying Kenyans cannot accept what they do not want.
Uhuru disagreed with Obama on the matter, saying values which “our culture and societies do not accept” must be acknowledged.
He said value for family, democracy and entrepreneurship are common values but “there are other things that we do not share”.
“We need to be able to speak frankly about some of these things,” he told a joint press conference following bilateral talks at State House on Saturday.
“It is very difficult to impose on people that which they do not accept. This issue is not really an issue that is on the foremost minds of Kenyans and that is a fact.”
Uhuru cited health, inclusivity of women, infrastructure development, education and citizen empowerment as some of the issues that are more critical to Kenya.
“Maybe once, like you have overcome some of these challenges, we can begin to look at new ones,” he said.
Obama who had earlier said citizens “doing the right things” should not face discrimination because of who they love.
Noting that he has been consistent with gay rights across Africa, he said treating people differently erodes freedom “and then bad things happen”.
“When you treat people differently, freedom starts to elope. Basically, let people be. The state doesn’t have to weigh in on religious doctrines,” he said.
Obama, who lauded the US Supreme Court for legalising gay marriage in all 50 states, said people can have their own opinions as long as the law is observed.
“We need to look at how the state operates, relative to the law, with regard to its people. Kenya should look at what its laws say on this matter,” he said.
“It is wrong, treating people differently because of the people they love. As an African American in the US, I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently”.
Kenya, like many African states, outlaws homosexuality; Deputy President William Ruto said there was “no room” for gays in the country, which he said he was ready to fight for.
Several other leaders, who joined him in condemning the sexual orientation, had asked Obama not to address the gays rights issue during his visit.