The PJ Tatler

Kenyan President on Obama's Push for Gay Rights: Africans 'Have More Pressing Issues'

Kenya’s president told CNN over the weekend that the United States’ pressure on his country to ensure gay rights is not in sync with where his society is.

On his summertime visit to the country, President Obama spoke with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta privately on the issue and publicly in a joint press conference.

“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,” Obama said then. “I’m unequivocal on this.”

“I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this. I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law. The state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.”

Kenyatta said in an interview aired Sunday that this pressure isn’t taking into account the wishes of Kenyan society.

“Let me make it clear to you, I’ll put it this way. All right? Think first and foremost we’re all saying that whatever society you come from, the principal aim is that you must give the people, you know, their right to choose. Now, where we are, and on the level of development that we are at, I am not saying that these people don’t have their rights. That’s not what I’m saying. I am just saying that the majority, the majority in our society do not wish to legalize this issue of gay rights,” Kenyatta said.

“People in Kenya are not at this point entitled. And that’s exactly what I said when we were with President Obama. To them this is not an issue. That they are going to put at the center. They have more pressing issues. However, that said I am also and will not allow people to persecute any individuals or to beat them or to torture them.”

The Kenyan leader said the government is trying to discourage mob violence against gays in the country — “witch hunts.”

“You know, we won’t allow people to take the law into their own hands and harass and no, we won’t. Every individual has the right to be protected by the law. And that’s stated in our Constitution,” he said.

“But what we’re saying is that as a society we do not accept some of these values. And this is where I’m saying we’ve got to get synergies. You’re not going to create the United States of America or Great Britain or the Netherlands in Kenya or in Nigeria or in Senegal or overnight. And we were to understand that these are processes and they’ll take time.”