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Obama Wraps Up Trip To Kenya


President Barack Obama wraps up his first presidential trip to Kenya today. He began this morning with a speech to the Kenyan people at a sports stadium in Nairobi. In Kenya, the visit has been billed as a homecoming, though President Obama has had a complicated relationship with Kenya, the country where his father was born, as well as with the current Kenyan government. NPR's Gregory Warner has been traveling with the president. He joins us from the stadium where Mr. Obama spoke. Gregory, good morning.


MARTIN: I imagine this event was pretty well attended. What was the scene like?

WARNER: Well, just picture American flags being waved and a lot of people saying, Obama for president in 2017 - Kenyan president. You know, there's a lot of love and people saying, oh, welcome home, as you said. When his sister introduced him, she said, despite the presidential dressing, he's still one of ours. And he delivered. He said, you know, I am the first Kenyan-American U.S. president. They got a huge applause, instead of referring to himself as African-American. And, you know, he tied his bio and his family's bio to Kenya's history. He talked about his grandfather, how his grandfather served the British, was a chef, always called boy. His father struggled to find a university that would accept him until he found the University of Hawaii. And then, the president said to Kenyans today, you don't have to serve a foreign master. You don't have to go elsewhere to pursue your education. You can make your future right here in Kenya. And that fit with his message of Africa's on the move, kind of trying to encourage American investment.

MARTIN: The president used the opportunity to talk about empowering women and girls in Kenya. But he also specifically criticized the Kenyan government over the issue of corruption. What did he have to say about that?

WARNER: He said corruption is an issue that not only the Kenyan government has to take seriously but every Kenyan has to take seriously. And he said that unfortunately, corruption is often seen as a way of life and just sort of part of doing business in Kenya. And he said that that's holding back the Kenyan economy, holding back Kenya in many ways. Although, he did frame it in a more inclusive way. Instead of coming across as lecturing or imposing foreign values, he spoke of how his own hometown of Chicago - the legendary corruption in the Chicago political establishment. He said, we also got over our corruption problem by taking strong stances, so can you. In Kenya, though, railing against corruption as a political leader is just part of what you do. Every speech of a Kenyan leader includes some sort of diatribe against corruption. It means nothing. So will President Obama's words be taken differently because of his unique background? It remains to be seen.

MARTIN: What about the issue of terrorism? Did he bring up how Kenya is dealing with the Somali militant group al-Shabaab?

WARNER: He talked about it. It's a huge issue for Kenya, of course. And the president reiterated that America stands with Kenya and is pledging support for Kenya's military - training, resources - in their fight against terrorism, both in Kenya and over the border in Somalia. He also, though, took the opportunity to chastise Kenya for its mistreatment - its discriminatory treatment, its profiling of the minority Somali population, which unfortunately make up the largest pool of first recruits. And he was speaking in a stadium which just last year was used as a kind of jail for thousands of Somali refugees who were rounded up in the wake of terrorist attacks. The president said that that kind of treatment only increases the terrorist threat. It doesn't fight it.

MARTIN: NPR's Gregory Warner, traveling with President Obama in Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks so much, Gregory.

WARNER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.