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Kenyans await Obama's visit with cautious optimism

14 July 2015, 21:39

Nairobi - The upcoming maiden visit by the U. S. President Barack Obama to the land of his ancestors has elicited mixed reactions from citizens of all stripes.

Obama's first visit to Kenya as the U.S. president has been described as historic by the east African nation's ruling elite, scholars and ordinary citizens.

President Obama will grace the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi on July 25-26 in Nairobi and preparations for his visit are in top gear.

The American leader's visit to his homeland is not only eagerly awaited, but has as well triggered differing viewpoints from Kenyans across the ethnic, gender, class and sectarian divide.

Kenyan scholars, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens who spoke to Xinhua separately dates agreed that Obama's visit will be a watershed moment.

Patrick Maluki, a Diplomacy Scholar at the University of Nairobi, hailed Obama's visit to the country of his ancestors, but warned against inflated expectations.

"We are privileged to host the leader of the free world later in the month, but his maiden trip is purely official and has negligible sentimental value attached to it," Maluki told Xinhua.

He added President Obama will focus mainly on bilateral cooperation with Kenya in strategic areas like trade, security, energy and technology transfer.

Obama's visit to Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit was revealed early this year and triggered a frenzy that has not subsidized to date.

The Kenyan media has been awash with intricate details surrounding the trip while pundits have offered different opinions on the implication of the trip.

Maluki opined that while Obama's visit will be rich in symbolism, it might not unleash immediate benefits to ordinary Kenyans.

"It is true that history will be rewritten when President Obama lands in this city. The power, glamour and prestige associated with his office will be visible. Nevertheless, we should allow realism to prevail since President Obama will not solve our myriad problems instantly," Maluki told Xinhua.

He stressed that Obama will represent American interests during his brief visit to Kenya and will not allow himself to be dragged into domestic challenges.

"We must put our house in order and position ourselves to grab opportunities to be realized through improved bilateral ties with America. To expect a basket of goodies from President Obama is wishful thinking," Maluki said.

The Kenyan government has made adequate preparations to host President Obama at the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit to be held in Sub-Saharan Africa.

National leaders have reassured the public that adequate measures have been put in place to ensure the visit in smooth and fruitful.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Saturday told business executives that Kenya felt honored to host President Obama and anticipate a windfall after the visit.

Kenyan pundits are of the view that President Obama`s visit will strike an emotional chord with a large swathe of citizens who revere his achievement.

Steve Ndegwa, a social and political commentator noted that Obama's charm is still pronounced and Kenyans will be eager to get a glimpse of their son who rose from obscurity to the apex of global power.

He emphasized Obama's visit will have sentimental value, but may not translate into tangible benefits for ordinary Kenyans.

"President Obama's brief sojourn in Kenya will of course mark an important milestone in our country's history. However, I do not anticipate earthshaking results when he departs," said Ndegwa.

Ordinary Kenyans have remained cautiously optimistic despite the frenzy surrounding President Obama's visit to his motherland.

Daniel Kamau, a newspaper vendor, hailed Obama's maiden visit to Kenya, but warned against hyperbole that might lead to disappointment.

During an interview with Xinhua, Kamau said he will still attend to his daily chores despite the presence of President Obama in town.

"President Obama will represent his government and American people during his visit to Kenya and we should not expect him to perform miracles. We must therefore take charge of our destiny with or without Obama's helping hand," Kamau said. 

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- Xinhua


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