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Obama promotes inclusivity, human rights during Africa visit

Making the first ever American presidential visit to the nation of Ethiopia, President Obama addressed the crisis of civil war in neighboring South Sudan. In a news conference with the Ethiopian prime minister, the president urged respect for human rights, a message that was also central to his visit to Kenya over the weekend. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    President Obama continued his visit to Africa today, making a personal push for peace and calls for democracy.

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” greeted the first American president to visit Africa’s second most-populous country. But after the pomp, the president spoke of urgent business, not in Ethiopia, but in its neighbor to the West, South Sudan. Since the U.S. helped midwife the founding of the world’s newest nation in 2011, civil war has left tens of thousands dead and displaced two million more.

  • President Barack Obama:

    Our hope is that we can actually bring about the kind of peace that the people of South Sudan so desperately need.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president and African leaders discussed options, including sanctions, if a peace deal is not reached by August 17. Mr. Obama urged inclusion, and respect for human rights, in a news conference with Ethiopia’s prime minister.

  • President Barack Obama:

    I believe that, when all voices are being heard, when people know that they are included in the political process, that makes a country stronger and more successful and more innovative.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That message was also central to the president’s visit to Kenya over the weekend.

    It was a highly anticipated visit to his father’s homeland and Mr. Obama’s first in nearly three decades. Kenyans lined the streets to welcome the president, whom they see as one of their own. But security precautions prevented him from greeting many of the residents, so thrilled to see the Kenyan-American president, as he referred to himself, or visit his father’s village.

    He did, however, attend a private dinner with members of his family, including his grandmother and half-sister. And he cut a rug at a state dinner held in his honor, joining in on a traditional dance.

    Aside from the celebrations, the president also pushed his human rights message. Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, emphasized the threats of terrorism facing his country, and promised to work toward equal rights for all.

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya:

    We agreed together that we can build a future in which our people of all faiths, cultures live peacefully together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But the country has a checkered record when it comes to human rights. In 2010, Kenyatta himself was named a suspect in crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.

    President Obama spoke about corruption, ethnic divisions, and human rights, urging Kenyans to — quote — “choose the path to progress.” And he had stern words for the treatment of people based on sexual orientation, even as Kenyatta dismissed gay rights as a nonissue for Kenyans.

  • President Barack Obama:

    So, I’m unequivocal on this. The idea that they are going to be treated differently or abused because of who they love is wrong, full stop.

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