Kenya: Media focus on Obama’s visit misses key point

President Barack Obama. (Photo: White House/Wikimedia Commons)
President Barack Obama. (Photo: White House/Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. President Obama, in a (fictional) telephone call: “Just so we’re on the same page, Uhuru, you know I have to appear to push the gay rights issue while I’m visiting your country. My LGBT constituents expect it. The left expects it. The media . . . especially the media, expect it. They’ve been talking about it for weeks. ”

Kenya President Kenyatta: “I understand, Barack. And you know I have to appear to rebuke you, er, the United States and tell you that it is a non-issue here. Religious leaders here expect it. Politicians here expect it.  The media here expect it.”

Obama: “Exactly. Then we can get down to the real business . . . counterterrorism cooperation . . .”

Kenyatta: “And the financial commitments for Kenya from your country.”

Obama: “Yes . . .”

Yes, it is a fictional conversation. But on Saturday, most news reports about President Obama’s visit to Kenya were not focusing on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that was taking place there, or the fact that the U.S. government  and U.S. businesses were committing $1 billion to sub-Saharan Africa.

Most media outlets devoted their coverage to the lack of LGBT rights in Kenya, with counterterrorism initiatives between the two countries getting the secondary coverage. The money got very little news coverage, even though many LGBT people in Western nations resent the fact that their tax dollars are being used to support oppressive anti-LGBT regimes.

I’m not criticizing President Obama. He’s doing what he has to do, and hopefully he is sowing seeds of freedom for Kenya’s LGBT population. Gay people in Kenya can be imprisoned for 14 years for loving each other. It is an issue that should be addressed, even if the two leaders were merely paying lip service to it knowing that neither of them will ever see LGBT equality in Kenya in their lifetimes.

And many people feel that Western nations should continue to help less fortunate and oppressive countries like Kenya, in the hopes that one day they will come around to granting all their citizens equal civil rights no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But I think the media should be more forthcoming about the money in its coverage. I would like to have seen ledes, or first paragraphs, that mentioned the $1 billion, the counterterrorism and the LGBT rights issue. Downplaying the U.S. aid is disingenuous, especially since the primary purpose of Obama’s visit to Kenya was for a global entrepreneurship conference.

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor


“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey


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