The itinerary for President Barack Obama’s upcoming trip to Africa is coming under fire for one country not on it: Kenya, the birthplace of his father.
In a conference call on Friday, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters that the president still has a "deep, personal, familial connection to Kenya," but "it just wasn’t the best time for the president to travel to Kenya." Part of that bad timing is likely due to the March election of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who happens to face crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court, a process the the U.S. supports.
But don’t tell the Kenyans, who’ve been sounding off about the perceived snub on Twitter and to the local press.
"We elected our president and whether the ICC comes or goes he is our president. We have already seen what is happening to the ICC case," a Kenyan teacher told local news outlet Capital News.
"A time will come when he (Obama) will need Kenya and he needs to remember that Kenyans’ lives were still going on even before he took over office from George Bush," Kenyan Mavado Ondivo told the local outlet.
#WhyObamaWillSkipKenya because the prodigal son never went back to his father till all his money got finished
#WhyObamaWillSkipKenya He cant stand being in a country where a president will make a better speech than him without a teleprompter
#WhyObamaWillSkipKenya he’s afraid that chipukeezy will hit on Sasha and Malia
Obama’s June 27 trip marks his second presidential visit to the continent, where he’ll visit Senegal, South Africa and Kenya’s geopolitically less important neighbor Tanzania.
"The Kenyan people hold a special place in the president’s heart," Rhodes said. "We respect the sovereign right of Kenyan to choose their leaders … We also as a country have a commitment to accountability and justice."
But Kenya’s current leader has a justice problem. Kenyatta is charged with crimes against humanity, including rape and murder, and orchestrating violence after the 2007 election, a charge he denies. The ICC lists him as an "indirect co-perpetrator" in the chaos that killed some 1,200 people and displaced more than 500,000 after the disputed elections, which he won against then-Prime Minister Raila Odinga by 50.07 percent to 43.28 percent. Rhodes mentioned that the other countries on the president’s itinerary have strong, prospering democracies.
Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| The Cable |