U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec – Remarks for Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES)/POTUS Visit Press Conference

-As prepared-

Good afternoon,

We are getting close to President Obama’s arrival in Kenya.  His visit will be a truly historic moment for both Kenya and the United States, and underscores the fact that the United States’ partnership with the Kenyan Government and people has never been stronger.

When the President arrives later this week, he will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Kenya.  By itself, this would be a momentous event.  That the visit involves this President – a man with such deep personal and familial ties to Kenya – makes it even more meaningful.

Let me take a moment to thank our partners in the Kenyan Government – and Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed in particular – for their exceptional assistance in ensuring that President Obama’s visit happens safely and efficiently.  I have no doubt that, with our combined efforts, this visit will be a great success.

I know there is tremendous interest in the President’s schedule.  While I won’t be able to get into specifics, I can preview some of the main events.

We’re very pleased that President Obama will address the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit along with President Kenyatta.  Empowering entrepreneurs has been at the forefront of President Obama’s foreign policy agenda since he took office.  The United States has played a prominent role in organizing five Global Entrepreneurship Summits since 2010, and these events have inspired and supported countless innovators and entrepreneurs from across the world.

President Obama will lead a U.S. delegation to the GES that includes several members of Congress, cabinet officials, and senior government officials, underscoring the importance that the United States places on supporting Africa’s – and Kenya’s – emerging entrepreneurs.  Indeed, Kenya’s selection as the location for this year’s Summit highlights the country’s role as an economic leader in East Africa, and we hope that this event will help support and accelerate the dynamism and innovation that has driven Kenya’s strong economic performance in recent years.

We’re also very much looking forward to meeting with President Kenyatta at State House, where we expect to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest.  For over 50 years, the United States and Kenya have been strong partners, and we hope this meeting between our two Presidents will further strengthen this partnership in a range of priority areas, such as building greater trade and investment linkages, bolstering security and countering violent extremism within Kenya and across the region, continuing our robust partnership in support of the health and well-being of the Kenyan people, combatting poaching and wildlife trafficking, and accelerating efforts to bolster transparency and tackle corruption.

President Obama also plans to meet with a wide cross-section of civil society members, underscoring our view that a strong and vibrant civil society is vital to robust democratic institutions, economic well-being, promoting a sustainable economy – including preserving Kenya’s extraordinary natural gifts – and countering violent extremist ideologies.

Finally, President Obama plans to address the Kenyan people on Sunday.  I know much of this has already been reported in the press, and speculation about large crowds – up to 300,000 people – is high.  Let me be clear: while we want this event to be attended by a wide range of Kenyan society, attendance is by invitation only, and we discourage people from coming to the venue if they are not explicitly invited.  I can assure you that the speech will be broadcast live across the country on both radio and television to ensure that every Kenyan that wishes to listen to the President’s remarks is able to do so.

I know that the Kenyan people have many other questions and concerns about the visit.  Let me address a few of them today.

First, I can tell you with confidence that this visit holds deep personal significance to President Obama.  I also know that Kenyans are very interested in whether the President will visit his family during this visit.  We do anticipate that the President will have time on his schedule for personal meetings with members of his family, and we expect the family to participate in some of his public events.  However , as the White House noted yesterday, due to logistical and scheduling challenges, the President is not currently planning to travel to Kogelo.

Second, the President’s visit will require heightened security in Nairobi, and there likely will be some road closures.  Obviously, we are working closely with the Government of Kenya to minimize disruptions.  However, we do not anticipate that there will be major disruption to cell phone service because of the visit.  In addition, JKIA is not shutting down for long periods of time due to the President’s arrival or departure – though schedules may shift, commercial planes will continue to fly.  The cooperation and coordination from the Kenyan authorities has been extraordinary, and we are grateful for their efforts to ensure that this visit is safe and well-organized.

We know the Kenyan people are excited to welcome back President Obama and we know President Obama himself is excited to return to Kenya on what will be a truly historic and memorable visit.

Thank you.