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Obama meets family ahead of full schedule

July 25, 2015

US President Barack Obama has reunited with his extended family on the first evening of his trip to Kenya. In his first visit as US president, Obama is expected to discuss trade and counterterrorism strategies.

Barack Obama reuniting with his family
Image: Reuters/J. Ernst

While the media has focused extensively on US President Barack Obama's family in Kenya, the US government has stressed that the aim of the president's visit is to highlight Kenya's ties with the US. Obama's trip is set to include talks on trade and counterterrorism strategies.

On Saturday, Kenya and the US are to discuss enhancing cooperation in the fight against the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militia, responsible for the 2013 bombing of Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall that killed 67 people. The group recently attacked a university near the Somali border, leaving 148 students and teachers dead.

Obama is also scheduled to open the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, visiting along with more than 200 US investors. Later on, he will meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in a disputed 2007 election. The charges against Kenyatta were dropped in December.

Last visit in 2006

This is Obama's first trip to his father's homeland as US president
This is Obama's first trip to his father's homeland as US presidentImage: Getty Images/AFP/S. Loeb

After receiving a warm welcome by millions of Kenyans, Obama spent Friday evening reuniting with his extended family.

At his hotel in Nairobi, the president met with the woman he calls "Granny," also known as "Mama Sarah," who helped raise his late father. His half-sister Auma Obama and about three dozen other family members were also present. The family engaged in an amiable chat, sitting in the restaurant of the hotel where Obama was staying in the Kenyan capital.

Auma said her father would be proud to see his son as US president if he were alive today. "He'd be extremely proud and say, 'Well done'… But then he'd add, 'But obviously, you're an Obama," she said in an interview with CNN.

Kenyan heritage

"I don't think that Kenyans think of Obama as African-American. They think of him as Kenyan-American," EJ Hogendoorn, deputy program director for Africa at the International Crisis Group, told The Associated Press.

Obama is linked to Kenya through his father, Barack Obama Sr., who left the country as a young man to study in Hawaii, where he met the president's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham. Obama Sr. left Hawaii when his son was just 2 years old, for Harvard, after which he went back to Kenya. The president met his father only once more in his life, when he was 10 years old. Obama Sr. would die soon after, in a car crash in 1982.

Obama Sr. was an economist who opposed the leader of his country at the time, then President Jomo Kenyatta, over tribal divisions and allegations of corruption. He was fired by the president and spent the rest of his life dealing with financial problems and heavy drinking.

mg/cmk (AP, Reuters)