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Obama: US, Kenya United Against Terrorism, Al-Shabab


U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta hold a joint news conference after their meeting at the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015.

President Barack Obama said the United States and Kenya stand united against the threat of terrorism.

Speaking in Nairobi Saturday at a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama said there has been extensive and effective counterterrorism coordination between the U.S. and Kenya, primarily in dealing with Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Obama also thanked Kenya for taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced by years of conflict in Somalia.

Obama said the U.S. is working with Kenya to confront threats to its prosperity, and he commended Kenyatta for committing to root out corruption.

He also said both high- and low-level officials need to stop seeking bribes, which he said discourage people from starting new businesses.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama to the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015. (Photo: Aru Pande / VOA)

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama to the State House in Nairobi, July 25, 2015. (Photo: Aru Pande / VOA)

President Obama also discussed elephant poaching and said his administration will propose new rules to ban the sale of ivory across state lines in the United States.

Obama, when asked about the rights of gays and lesbians in Kenya, said he believes that the state should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.

Kenyan President Kenyatta said Kenya and the United States need to work much closer together to help stabilize Somalia, and help its government reduce the area controlled by al-Shabab, which has also carried out several deadly assaults in Kenya.

The two leaders addressed the press after holding talks at State House in Nairobi.

In remarks before the meeting, Obama praised Kenya for moving away from ethnic tensions and toward "national unity."

WATCH: President Obama's remarks at GES Summit

He said the U.S. wants to work with African leaders and people "not out of charity" but out of common interests.

Earlier Saturday, Obama has said entrepreneurship in Africa helps break down barriers and build bridges between cultures, providing an alternative to violence and hopelessness.

In a speech to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Obama encouraged investment in African businesses and businesspeople. He said Africa needs to be a future hub of global growth, not just African growth.

"Africa is on the move," he said, adding, "Kenya is leading the way."

Crowds of Kenyans cheer and hold a painting representing US President Barack Obama near Memorial Park, in Nairobi on July 25, 2015.

Crowds of Kenyans cheer and hold a painting representing US President Barack Obama near Memorial Park, in Nairobi on July 25, 2015.

Nairobi's welcome

Obama is making his first visit to Kenya as U.S. president.

The streets of Nairobi have been painted and polished as the city has spared no expense to welcome Obama for what Kenyans have called his “homecoming.”

Security is high for the visit of the U.S. president, with at least 10,000 police officers deployed in Nairobi. The U.S. Embassy has warned that the summit Obama is hosting could be "a target for terrorists."

A delegation of U.S. lawmakers and White House officials is accompanying Obama to the summit, a move the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi said underscores the importance the United States places on supporting Africa's entrepreneurs.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, watches as President Barack Obama, center, hugs his half-sister Auma Obama, after he arrived at Kenyatta International Airport, on July 24, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, watches as President Barack Obama, center, hugs his half-sister Auma Obama, after he arrived at Kenyatta International Airport, on July 24, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dinner with relatives

Obama's plane touched down in Nairobi Friday evening, with President Kenyatta greeting the U.S. president on the tarmac.

Obama, whose father was Kenyan, later had dinner with his Kenyan relatives, including his step-grandmother, Mama Sarah, and his half-sister Auma Obama.

U.S. officials said security concerns will prevent the president from traveling to the west Kenyan village of Kogelo where his father was born and is buried.

Barack Obama Sr. was an economist who served in the government of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president and the father of the current president.

Obama last visited in 2006 as a U.S. senator.

But his first trip to Kenya as president, said Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, means a lot to the country.

“President Obama is not just any other American president. He has African roots, and more specifically Kenyan roots, and so it is significant in a very different way,” Ruto told VOA.

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