NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 25 – Kenyan media were awash Saturday with coverage of Barack Obama’s first visit to his father’s homeland, with the US president waving from one front page headlining “Kenya Here I Am”.
Hours after he landed in Nairobi on the first leg of a two-country Africa tour, large chunks of all the major newspapers, and long stretches of television programming, were devoted to coverage of Obama’s visit.
Crowds had gathered in the dark along the road from the airport to the city centre to cheer as the US presidential motorcade passed by after Obama arrived on Air Force One late Friday.
Obama’s Kenyan half-sister, Auma Obama, accompanied him in his armoured limousine, nicknamed “The Beast”.
Obama gave his first public address on Saturday morning at the opening of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at Nairobi’s large UN compound, telling delegates “Africa is on the move”. The address was televised live on Kenyan channels.
On Nairobi’s unusually quiet streets, where tight security is in place to prevent any attack by the regional Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Shabaab, newspaper seller Peter Nabule shared his excitement.
“I’m excited because at least before he finished his term, he decided to come back home and visit his people,” he said.
Bus driver Anthony Mamachira said he was “very, very grateful” for the visit.
An editorial in The Nation spoke of the “Obama phenomenon” and called on Kenyans to be inspired by his example of “the boundless possibilities open to us as individuals and as a nation.”
“If there is one important outcome from the presidential visit, it is that we can, indeed, stand above all the little schisms that all too often turn us against each other,” the editorial said, in a reference to the country’s deep ethnic divisions that came to the fore during election-related violence seven years ago.
The Star newspaper took a similar tone, saying political differences should be set aside.
The Standard urged Kenyans to “embrace entrepreneurship” and hoped Obama’s visit would bring economic benefits to the country.