Obama to visit family members in Africa

Obama to visit family members in Africa

President Obama will meet with members of his extended family during his trip to Kenya, the White House said Wednesday.

“I do believe he will have the opportunity to spend some time privately with his family,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice told reporters one day ahead of the president’s four-day trip to Africa. 

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But due to time constraints and logistics, Rice said the president will not be able to visit his family’s ancestral village of Kogelo. 

Obama will become the first sitting president to visit Kenya when he arrives on Friday. It is also the birthplace of his father, who left his mother when he was two years old. 

While in Kenya, Obama will headline the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and deliver a speech to youth leaders. He will also hold meetings with Kenyan leaders to speak about promoting trade and investment and increasing collaboration on counterterrorism. 

Ahead of the trip, Obama was scheduled to hold a White House reception Wednesday celebrating the renewal of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped boost U.S.-Africa trade to $73 billion last year. 

The president will also travel to Ethiopia, where he will speak to a gathering of the African Union. 

Rice brushed aside security concerns surrounding Obama’s visit, including the publication of Air Force One’s arrival and departure times in Nairobi by a Kenyan airline. 

“It has, in no way, affected our approach to or plans for the trip,” Rice said. “It’s also my understanding that oftentimes, some of this information turns out to be not entirely accurate. But I don't think it in any way is disturbing our plans.”

Obama has faced criticism from human-rights groups for his decision to travel to Ethiopia, where the government has cracked down on political dissent and independent journalists. 

Gay-rights groups have also urged the president to raise concerns about poor treatment of LGBT individuals in Kenya and other African nations.  

Rice said he wouldn’t be afraid to broach those issues with leaders from both countries. 

“This an issue of universal human rights. President Obama … feels very strongly that gay rights are human rights,” she said. “That is something we do not shy away from underscoring.”

More than a dozen lawmakers from both political parties will join Obama on the trip. 
 
The White House did not disclose a list, but members reportedly traveling to Africa are Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. 
 
This story was updated at 4:48 p.m.