August 2, 2015
Bruton on Obama's Human Rights Agenda
Bronwyn Bruton, deputy head of Africa unit at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, offers a much more critical perspective on Mr Obama's visit.
She says the president's focus on women's rights and his defence of gay rights "played well with his liberal base in the United States," but did not pose any meaningful challenges to his hosts.
The inclusion of the gay rights element on Mr Obama's human rights agenda gave African leaders an opening to signal to their constituents that the entire US message on these issues is "out of bounds," she says.
Espousing the cause of women's rights does not generate much controversy in Africa, Ms Bruton adds.
It is generally accepted, at least on a rhetorical level, that women should be treated equally, she notes, suggesting, "Women do not represent the linchpin of repression in Africa."
In Kenya and Ethiopia, it is government mistreatment of the Muslim population that stands at the core of human rights concerns, Ms Bruton says.
It was "disappointing" that Mr Obama chose to deliver a speech at Kasarani Stadium that did not include explicit condemnation of Operation Usalama Watch, she remarks.
Hundreds of Somali Kenyans were rounded up and detained in the stadium in April 2014 following terrorist attacks in Nairobi and Mombasa.
"The mistreatment of Muslims in Kenya and Ethiopia goes right to the heart of al-Shabaab's recruitment," Ms Bruton says.