President Obama calls out Kenya on LGBT rights, corruption

No one tells the President of the United States what to do.

Visiting Kenya over the weekend, President Obama — over warnings and objections and a naked protest — called out the country’s government for its shoddy record on human rights for its LGBT and female populations.

During the run-up to his visit, Kenyan elected officials warned Obama that if he spoke out in favor of LGBT rights, he would face all manner of negative reactions. He would be ejected from Kenya’s parliament. The country would refuse the foreign aid it receives from the United States. But Obama called their bluff, and was (unsurprisingly) allowed to stick around. No word on whether the country is sending our money back, but I doubt it.

Here are Obama’s full remarks from Saturday, with the video queued up for his specific remarks on LGBT rights:

Said Obama:

With respect to the rights of gays and lesbians: I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law; that they are deserving of equal protection under the law, and that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. And I say that recognizing that there may be people who have different religious or cultural beliefs, but the issue is how does the state operate relative to people.

If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating people differently — not because of any harm they’re doing anybody, but because they’re different — that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode. Bad things happen. And when a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread.

And as an African-American in the United States, I am painfully aware of the history of what happens when people are treated differently under the law, and there were all sorts of rationalizations that were provided by the power structure for decades in the United States — for segregation and Jim Crow and slavery — and they were wrong. So I’m unequivocal on this. Somebody is a law-abiding citizen who is going about their business and working in a job and obeying the traffic signs and doing all the other things that good citizens are supposed to do, and not harming anybody; the idea that they’re going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong. Full stop.

And the state does not need to weigh in on religious doctrine. The state just has to say, “We’re gonna treat everybody equally under the law,” and everybody else can have their own opinions.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta responded to Obama in the joint press conference by calling LGBT rights a “non-issue” that should be addressed only after the country had tackled other, more pressing issues such as terrorism, health, education and economic development. In other words, the issue shouldn’t be addressed at all. Visibly uncomfortable being asked to addressed human rights concerns after being called out by the President of the United States, Kenyatta bristled at the concept of “imposing” American culture on Kenya by asking them to embrace LGBT rights.

President Obama speaks in Kenya, screenshot via YouTube

President Obama speaks in Kenya, screenshot via YouTube

President Obama did laud Kenya’s newly adopted constitution, which contains what Obama called “progressive” articulations of human rights, while encouraging Kenyatta to, you know, enforce those rights.

Kenya has been cited by Human Rights Watch as having a far from rosy record, with reports of “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture” that have not been addressed in recent years. Homosexuality remains criminalized in the country, while a bill that would increase the penalty to life in prison — with the death penalty for gay foreigners — has been introduced in Kenya’s legislature.

It’d be easy to cite Kenya’s anti-LGBT policies as simply a difference of culture, as President Kenyatta did, but to the extent that you can simplify it, that analysis is backwards. The virulent anti-gay culture in the country — and even the language used to classify sexual orientation — is in many respects an American export. Faced with decreasing support in the United States, Christian missionaries have taken their talents to Africa, specifically Kenya, bringing a Western brand of hatred to the country and continent.

Going beyond human rights, President Obama noted that cracking down on government corruption would likely accelerate the economic development President Kenyatta said he was so eager to cultivate. As Obama advised:

This may be the biggest impediment to Kenya growing even faster, and more people having even more opportunity. The fact that doing business, and ordinary people just moving along in their lives here, is constantly sapped by corruption at a high level and at a low level. International businesses are concerned if the price of investing in Kenya is 5 percent or 10 percent going to some place that doesn’t have to do with the project. It’s just a math issue.

Obama cited his hometown of Chicago’s struggle to overcome corruption as an example for Kenya to emulate.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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13 Responses to “President Obama calls out Kenya on LGBT rights, corruption”

  1. Jarvis says:

    When will Obama call out the corruption right under his nose. Despite the fact that the nation’s courtrooms remain active crime scenes, with backdated, forged and fabricated documents still sloshing around them, state and federal regulators have not filed new charges of misconduct against Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, U.S. Bank, Green Tree, or any other mortgage industry participant, since the round of national settlements over foreclosure fraud effectively closed the issue. The BANKSTERS continue to commit fraud upon hardworking people and fraud upon the courts. The biggest Ponzi scheme the world has ever seen , where the Banksters created credit out of thin air, not for their borrowers, but for the banksters themselves via the Federal Reserve’s magic check book, with no bank account behind it. The Bankster then loaned that imaginary money to people on the security of overvalued real property with the deliberate aim of reducing the artificially raised property prices and putting people out of work.People without income cannot pay their bills, so they were guaranteed they could steal all that real property from their rightful owners. Of course you would say to yourself, that makes no sense because the Banksters would lose money when foreclosing on the security , but you’d be wrong because the banksters insured the debt with an insurance company, but just forgot to tell the borrowers that. SO they knew they could not lose. Its what you might call having your cake and eating it too. You see, just secretly insuring the debt was the way they ensured that they lost no money. First they sold investors in Wall Street on the idea of using pensions and other fund moneys to invest in the profitable housing market. Then they sold homeowners on the idea of borrowing money against their rising property values, secure in knowing that they had artificially raised those prices and knew they could reverse that trend rapidly, when the time was right. Then they found another group of investors and sold them on insuring against the unlikely risk of those secure mortgages defaulting. But, as you know, they had already insured the downside risk. So they devised a new name that no one understood called the credit default swap. These were not insurance policies regulated by the states, but were unregulated securities sold on wall street to investors. So, once they got the business of insurance outside of the regulatory realm, it was no holds barred and they sold the same investment to up to 20 different groups in respect of every mortgage pool they pretended to create in the securitized mortgage scam.But people need to lose the mindset of someone who has been brainwashed by the garbage put out by government at state and federal level and echoed in the corporate owned mediaSO therefore, The banksters along side Freddie and Fannie, were and still are continuing to submit fraudulent documents to the courts in order to steal homes from homeowners. They and their substitute trustee lawyers (ie Samuel I White PC, just one of many ) are submitting FRAUDULENT papers to the courts in order to FRAUDULENTLY foreclose on homeowners across the nation. Mortgage notes with Forged Owners signatures and ta-da endorsements are being submitted to the courts in order to steal homes. Bank of america(or as they like to refer to themselves…fka countrywide) made a deal with the attorney generals to modify loans that they really had no right to modify as they were illegally acquired to begin with. They committed notary fraud, forgery, added fake endorsements and as their crimes began to come to light…………they made a deal and instead of modifications (which they LED the homeowners to believe what was happening)….they handed the fraudulent documents over to Green Tree, soon to be called DiTech..corporate criminals are notorious for changing their names after lights shine on their crimes…, among others, to foreclose. Meanwhile, homeowners are the ones who are paying the price by having their homes taken because of felonies that are being committed . Fraud upon the courts, racketeering, forgery, wire fraud, notary fraud…pathetic, nauseating, and just all around COMPLETELY disgusting. Wake up America. Wake Up

  2. AlexanderHamiltonsGhost says:

    “No one ever said there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats. However, they are pretty much the same on things that matter.”

    Cognitive dissonance is astounding.

  3. jodi.donne says:

    ====

  4. Bill_Perdue says:

    This Democrat president did fool some people with his last minute rebranding in 2012 but he remains a tool of the banksters, a warmonger who attacked, invaded or supported anti-worker dictators in Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and dozens of other nations.

    Obama is a racist who deported over two million immigrant and imported workers and an environment killer with fracking and offshore drilling.

    He deliberately stopped the use of designated TARP funds to aid people facing foreclosure and the ranks of the homeless soared.

    Tell us again why you admire those policies or how they’re different from the policies of other Democrat/Republicans.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama’s deliberate interference in the campaign to defeat Prop 8 ensured its passage. Obama stopped ENDA in it’s tracks in 2009-10. Obama didn’t even attempt to rebrand his bigotry until he saw that he needed to fool more members of the LGBT community into voting for him just before the 2012 election.

    His brief words condemning persecution of the LGBT communities in of communities in Africa are welcome but until the US publicly and dramatically opens the doors of it’s embassies and consulates with assured promises of asylum and financial aid to those in danger of imprisonment, violence and murder those words are not real. They are just words.

  6. BeccaM says:

    He’s definitely got ‘senior-itis’. No way would Obama have said stuff like this during his first term.

  7. 2karmanot says:

    Were are the nekked mens?

  8. nicho says:

    Wow, a hypocritical lecture to people in Africa about human rights, while African Americans are being slaughtered in our streets. That’s a reason to vote for someone.

    And for the record, your straw man fails again. No one ever said there was no difference between Republicans and Democrats. However, they are pretty much the same on things that matter.

  9. The_Fixer says:

    Obama cited his hometown of Chicago’s struggle to overcome corruption as an example for Kenya to emulate.

    Uh, I would think that using Chicago as an example would be the most delightful way to promote corruption. Especially with his buddy Rahm in there.

  10. 2patricius2 says:

    The list of Republicant candidates for president who would have done the same thing: Yes, there is no difference between this Democratic president and Republicants.

  11. nicho says:

    Every US politician and public official has a price tag on them, and Obama has the gall to lecture someone else about corruption. What a maroon.

  12. Bronxboy47 says:

    What, our “spineless”, apologizer-in-chief actually stood up to another government for a change–and a black run government at that?

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