Barack Obama has told Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta that gay people must be treated equally under the law, or else “bad things” will happen.
The US President, whose father was from Kenya, is currently visiting the country for the first time as President.
During an interview with the BBC’s John Sopel prior to his visit Africa, President Obama said hewould be “very blunt” about the need for equality in the country, where homosexuals face up to 14 years in Jail.
Speaking at a joint press conference, President Obama told Kenyatta: “I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this – I believe in the principle of treating people equally under the law, and that they are deserving of equal protection under the law, and the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.
“I say that recognising that there may be people with different religious or cultural beliefs – but the question is how does the state operate, relative to people?
“If you look at the history of countries around the world, when you start treating differently because they’re different, that’s the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen.”
“When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread. 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.”
However, President Kenyatta responded: “The fact of the matter is that Kenya and the United States share so many values… but there are some things that we must admit we don’t share.
“It’s very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that what they do not accept. For Kenyans today, the issue of gay rights is really a non-issue.”
Following Kenya, Mr Obama will head to Ethiopia – where gay people can face up to 15 years in prison.
A White House spokesperson had previously stated that the President had every intention of discussing gay rights on his trip to Kenya – despite the country’s warnings not to.
Anti-gay protesters have made repeated attempts to discourage the President to from promoting gay rights during his visit to the country, taking to social media and the streets of Nairobi in an attempt to dissuade any discussion on the matter.
A Kenyan political group had also planned to protest the President’s upcoming visit by asking 5,000 people to march naked through the streets – however, the march was cancelled after the Kenyan security forces intervened.
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