WASHINGTON - Barack Obama will make a long-awaited trip to Kenya later this year, visiting his father's homeland for the first time since becoming US president six years ago, the White House said Monday. During the long-promised visit this July, Obama will attend a Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the east African nation, a statement said.
Obama has visited Africa four times since becoming president, but has not visited the country where he still has relatives. For much of Obama's presidency, Kenya's leaders have been under a cloud of prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
Kenyatta was indicted over the country's 2007-08 post-election violence, the worst since it won independence from Britain in 1963. Kenyatta has always protested his innocence.
The case was dropped in December, with prosecutors complaining that they had been undermined by a lack of co-operation by the Kenyan government, as well as the bribing or intimidation of witnesses.
"President Obama will meet him in Kenya," a White House official told AFP, confirming a meeting that is likely to court controversy.
The official, who asked not to be named, said the United States regularly raises "concerns with the Kenyan government about restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms."
"The president's trip will create another opportunity for dialogue with the government and civil society on these issues."
Obama had visited Kenya before as a senator and before entering politics, visiting his father's home village and taking a very public HIV test.
The president's origins have spurred domestic controversy, with some hardline political foes claiming he was not born in the United States and so was ineligible to become president.
Obama allies say this is thinly veiled racism.
The president has often made light of the controversy.
"If I did not love America, I wouldn't have moved here from Kenya," he recently joked.
On this visit, Obama expected to take part in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), which is being held in sub-Saharan Africa for the first time.
"Hosting the GES is an opportunity for Kenya to showcase its economic progress," said the White House official.
"Kenya maintains enormous potential for economic growth, thanks to the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the Kenyan people."