Some Kenyans are threatening to meet President Obama with scorn — and rotten eggs — during his visit to their country next month.
“I will mobilize and lead every member of the council, including women and the youth, and Kenyans in general to throw rotten eggs at Obama if he dares introduce the gay and lesbian debate,” a member of the head of a council of elders said on Monday.
Many, including the country’s Deputy President William Ruto, have issued similarly harsh missives to Obama, who will make his first visit to Kenya as president on July 25.
“The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God,” Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in Swahili, according to a video posted online by the Kenyan broadcaster KTN. “We have no room for gays and those others.”
Like more than half of all countries in Africa, homosexuality is criminalized in Kenya.
Gay sex carries a sentence of 14 years in prison in accordance with a law dating back to British rule over the region. Even though the prohibition on homosexual acts is a holdover from Kenya’s colonial past, many in the country have decried the possibility of Obama advocating for LGBT rights as a neocolonial encroachment on Kenyan sovereignty.
Kenya’s National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi took this stance when he warned Obama against raising the issue.
“Liberal thoughts are being entertained in some countries under the guise of human rights. We must be vigilant and guard against [gay marriages],” Mututi said at an Anglican church.
Samuel Thuita, who threatened to throw rotten eggs at Obama, accused Obama of attempting to destabilize Kenya and undermine its customs by promoting LGBT rights.
Ironically, much of the push in Kenya and across Africa to clamp down on homosexuality has been led by American evangelicals. A virulent piece of legislation that aimed to impose a life sentence on homosexuality in neighboring Uganda was largely promoted by Scott Lively, a Massachusetts native.
Still, some have taken serious issue with Obama’s support of LGBT rights after his support of the American Supreme Court’s ruling last month that made it legal for same-sex couples across the U.S. to get married.
“The [Kenyan] Constitution is against same-sex marriage and nothing should change [with Obama’s visit]” Cecily Mbarire, a member of the Kenyan Parliament said. “We are ready to decline any foreign aid if it is tied to gay marriages.”
Doing so could have a huge imact on the Kenyan economy.
It’s not just government officials biting back at Obama. On Monday, the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya led a protests in Nairobi, although it was attended by just a few dozen people and quickly fizzled out.
Many more Kenyans took to Twitter to warn Obama against mentioning LGBT rights with the hashtag #KenyansMessageToObama.
The outrage comes despite the fact that Obama hasn’t even said he’ll bring up the issue of gay rights. He will be visiting the country for the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, and said earlier this year that the trip would focus on meeting with entrepreneurs from around the world and making new investment commitments.
When asked if Obama would bring up LGBT rights while in Kenya, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said on Monday, “Obviously, we have been clear that when the president travels around the world, he does not hesitate to raise concerns about human rights.”
He added, “I’m confident the president will not hesitate to make clear the protection of basic human rights in Kenya is also a priority consistent with the values that we hold dear here in the United States of America.”
There are, of course, some in Kenya who would like to see President Obama take on the floundering rights of LGBT people in Kenya.
“If he mentions it, it is good to speak about LGBTI human rights issues,” Denis Nzioka, a Kenyan LGBT rights activist said.
He added that the level of vitriol issued by Kenyans as a mere speculation that Obama might take on the issue is telling.
“This is the real world of living in a homophobic society,” Nzioka said. “The anti-LGBT crusade is still very much here. There have been more beatings, evictions and attacks when public discourse focuses on the community. It gets heightened, and it will only increase momentum as Obama’s visit gets closer.”
“We will have to see what happens next,” he said. “Whatever happens, I hope there is no risk to the lives of LGBTI Kenyans by adding fuel to the fire.”