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What they said: Obama at State House dinner

26 July 2015, 10:38

Nairobi - What they said during President Barrack Obama's dinner st State House Nairobi.

11:30 p.m.

The "birther" jokes won't go away, partly because the target won't stop telling them.

Obama says he suspects that some of his critics back home, particularly those who don't believe he's American, think he's in Kenya "to look for my birth certificate."

Well, "that is not the case," he joked at a state dinner in his honor hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife, Margaret.

Obama also joked that the occasion amounted to a "somewhat unusual Obama family reunion" because siblings, aunts, uncles and a grandmother from his father's side of the family attended.

His late father was born in Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii. He released a copy of his birth certificate several years ago but that hasn't quieted the doubters.

Obama is on his first visit to Kenya as president.


7:00 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the U.S. and Kenya are working to launch direct flights between the countries.

Obama says eliminating multiple legs of travel to get from one place to the other would be a boon for business and tourism.

Kenya's $1 billion tourism industry has suffered in the wake of mass assaults carried out in recent years by the al-Shabab extremist group, which is based across the border in Somalia.

Obama says the U.S. Transportation and Homeland Security departments are working with Kenyan officials on the protocols and security issues that must be settled before direct flights can begin.

He declined to say how soon that might happen, but said progress is being made.


5:35 p.m.

President Barack Obama is warning that corruption may be the biggest impediment to Kenya's growth and opportunities in the future.

Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He says he believes Kenyatta is serious about going after corruption.

Obama says it's a basic issue of math for international businesses that are concerned about their profit margins. He says companies will be concerned about doing business in Kenya if 5 percent or 10 percent of the cost of investing is being diverted due to corruption.

Obama says the U.S. has seen "all kinds of corruption" in the past. But he says the U.S. over time has showed that when people decide it's a priority to stop it, corruption can be stopped.

He says it's critical to go after corruption at the highest level of government and not just at lower levels.


5:20 p.m.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says gay rights are a "nonissue" in Kenya and that the issue is not a priority.

Kenyatta was asked about gay rights during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama in Nairobi. Obama voiced strong support for gay rights in Africa.

But Kenyatta says while the U.S. and Kenya agree on a lot, there are some things that cultures or societies just don't accept.

Gay sex is a crime in Kenya punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Kenyatta says it's very difficult to impose beliefs on people that they don't accept. He says his government wants to focus elsewhere.

Kenyatta says after Kenya deals with other, more pressing issues such as terrorism, it can begin to look at new issues. But he says for the moment, gay rights isn't at the forefront for Kenyans.


5:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama is likening gay rights in Africa to rights for African-Americans in the United States.

Obama says he is "unequivocal" on the issue of gay rights and discrimination. He says it is wrong for law-abiding citizens to be treated differently under the law because of who they love.

Obama says he's been consistent in pressing the issue when he meets with African leaders.

The president says he knows that some people have different religious or cultural beliefs. But he says governments don't need to weigh in on religious doctrine. He says governments simply have to treat everyone the same.

Obama says as an African-American, he's "painfully aware" of what happens when a government treats some people differently. He says, "Those habits can spread."

Obama was asked about gay rights in Kenya at a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenya criminalizes gay sexual relations and prominent politicians had warned Obama not to bring up gay rights during his visit to the country.


5:10 p.m.

President Barack Obama says terrorist organizations like al-Shabab are still able to harm civilians despite progress by the U.S. and others in weakening their networks.

Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He says the world has decreased the group's control in Somalia and undercut its operations in East Africa. But he says that doesn't mean the problem is solved.

He says groups that are willing to target civilians and are prepared to die can still inflict damage. He's calling for more intelligence-sharing between Kenya and the U.S. to identify and prevent threats.

Obama is also drawing a connection between good governance and security. He says he told Kenyatta that U.S. experience teaches that rule of law and embracing civil groups is even more important amid security threats like al-Shabab.

Obama also says that the situation in South Sudan is "dire" and that the recent elections in Burundi weren't credible.


5:00 p.m.

President Barack Obama says his administration will propose a federal rule banning the sale of almost all ivory across state lines.

Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.

He says the proposed rule is part of a U.S. effort to fight poaching in Africa. An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012.

The proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulation would prohibit the sale across state lines of ivory from African elephants and further restrict commercial exports. But it provides limited exceptions for interstate sales, namely pre-existing musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of ivory.

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- AP


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