NAIROBI – US President Barack Obama joked about Kenyan family politics and vowed Saturday to return again to his father’s homeland, sketching plans for philanthropic work in the country once he leaves office.
“What I can guarantee, I’ll be back,” Obama said during a joint outdoor press conference with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“The next time I’m back, I may not be wearing a suit,” he joked as US military helicopters whirred overhead and Secret Service agents stood left, right and centre â€“ a constant reminder of the bubble that surrounds any US president.
“The first time I came, I was in jeans and a backpack,” Obama said recalling a visit made almost three decades ago in search of the origins of a father he barely knew.
“One of the challenges of travelling and visiting Kenya is that I’m much more constrained.”
Those restrictions meant that, unlike his first trip, Obama was unable to visit his father’s village near the shores of Lake Victoria.
That was something that had disappointed his extended family, leaving the first African-American president “begging forgiveness” from some relatives who he admitted to meeting for the first time when they dined together in Nairobi on Friday.
His half-sister Auma Obama, with whom he is in regular contact, made sure all branches of the family were represented at the meal, he said, joking: “I think the people of Kenya will be familiar with the need to manage family politics sometimes.”
“In these extended families, there are cousins, uncles, aunties that show up that you didn’t know existed. But you are always happy to meet and there were lengthy explanations in some cases of the connection.”
Obama indicated that his future with Kenya after 2017 may not be just touristic and familial.
“My hope is some of the work I do after the presidency is over builds on what we have been doing now. I’m not going to stop being interested in the young people of Kenya and Africa, developing talent and leaders and entrepreneurs that are going to help make this country and the world prosper,” he said.
“You can anticipate that I will continue to make those contributions where I can.”
He said next time he would bring his wife Michelle and their two daughters. â€“ AFP