Barack Obama has landed in Kenya on his first visit to the East African country since becoming US president. The president hopes to boost trade and security ties during the trip to his father’s homeland and Ethiopia.
Air Force One landed late on Friday at Nairobi’s international airport, where he was welcomed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta with whom he will hold talks during his two-day visit.
Crowds of excited Kenyans also lined parts of the route to his hotel to welcome him to his ancestral home. Travelling in the presidential limousine with Obama was his half-sister Auma.
Huge security measures have been implemented across Nairobi during Obama’s visit – blocking the capital’s major roads and usually congested streets.
Trade and security
Trade talks will be at the top of Obama’s agenda during the coming two days. Ahead of his visit, however, the US president said he would also deliver a “blunt message” to African leaders about gay rights and discrimination.
The trip also aims to show the US’ commitment to fighting terrorism in eastern Africa, in light of the ongoing battle against the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab.
The al Qaeda-linked group was responsible for the attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping center in 2013, in which 67 people were killed. In April, this year, 148 people were murdered in an assault at a Kenyan university near the Somali border.
No visit to father’s burial ground
While presiding at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi over the weekend, Obama will also pay tribute to victims and survivors of the 1998 US embassy bombing.
Obama last visited Kenya in 2006 when he was still a US senator. He was barred from returning to Kenya sooner due to charges against Kenyatta for crimes against humanity – allegations which have now been dropped by the International Criminal Court.
During his current trip as US president, Obama is not expected to visit Kogelo where his father was buried.
…US shooting spree: Suspect identified, motive unknown, kills 2
Police in Lafayette have said 59-year-old John Houser killed himself after opening fire at a movie theater in the Louisiana city, killing two people. There appears to be no clear motive for this latest US shooting spree.
Lafayette police on Friday identified the gunman in a cinema shooting as John Russel Houser, a white man from the nearby southern state of Alabama.
“He’s kind of a drifter,” Police Chief Jim Craft told reporters, adding that Houser had acted alone and had been staying at a nearby motel.
After firing 13 rounds from a single handgun, killing two and injuring nine, Houser had been forced back into the cinema, where he turned the gun on himself, Craft said.
“What happened is that the quick law enforcement response forced him back into the theater, at which time he shot himself,” Craft said.
‘Random act of violence’
There were over 100 people in the cinema when Houser began shooting into the audience, 30 minutes into a screening of the comedy, “Trainwreck.”
According to police and the state governor, the attack was an instance of indiscriminate violence.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said it “didn’t appear that anybody in Lafayette was targeted,” explaining to US broadcaster CNN that residents were coming to grips with a “random act of violence.”
Bravery in the theater
Jindal praised the heroism of those in the audience who helped to “save the lives of others.”
He said there was one teacher who threw herself in front of the shower of bullets to protect her friend, also a teacher, and eventually pulled the fire alarm.
“The second teacher said the bullet was coming for her head if her friend hadn’t jumped on top of her. She had the presence of mind to pull the fire alarm,” said Jindal.
Jindal, who went to Lafayette after news of the shooting emerged and is also vying for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016, said it was not the right time to discuss gun control.
“We should be focusing on the victims at the moment,” he said.
Obama: Tens of thousands killed
The shooting came as President Barack Obama admitted that a “distressing” lack of progress on gun control has been a great source of frustration during his time in office.
“If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it’s less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by [domestic] gun violence, it’s in the tens of thousands,” Obama said in an interview with the BBC taped before the Louisiana shooting.
“For us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing,” he added.
The latest rampage erupted as a jury deliberates handing down the death penalty for the gunman in a 2012 theater massacre in Colorado that left 12 dead and 70 injured.
Almost three years ago to the day, James Holmes opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, in a planned attack during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The shooting also comes a week after Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, opened fire on two military centers in Chattanooga and killed four US Marines and a Navy sailor before dying in a shootout with police.
Last month, 21-year-old Dylann Roof killed nine people in a gun attack on a church in Charleston, South Carolina.