US Secret Service wants ‘total control’ of Obama security ahead of visit
THE recent terror attack at Garissa University College, has drastically changed Kenya’s role in security planning in preparation for US President Barrack Obama’s visit.
President Obama has reiterated that he will be in Kenya in July as planned but owing to security fears, local security personnel will work under US Secret Service.
The Star has learnt, while Kenya was to be given a central role in the security planning, the recent Garissa attack has led to a revision of the plan.
The US Secret Service seeks to have a total control of the security arrangements in July. Other than the Garissa attack, the presence of a fake sign language interpreter in South Africa last year, is weighing heavily on the arrangements.
During the burial of former South African President Nelson Mandela, which was attended by Obama and other world dignitaries on December 15, 2013 in his home village of Qunu, the Secret Service left security matters at the stadium to local authorities.
However, unlike the visit to South Africa for Mandela’s burial on short notice, plans for the Kenyan visit are already underway according to US and Kenyan government insiders.
“The presence of the fake interpreter, who stood just an arm’s length away from Obama triggered key lessons for the US Secret Service. But both the Kenyan team and the US team alongside UN security personnel based at Gigiri, Nairobi, are working on how to approach Obama’s security when he comes calling in July,” a security source who sought anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter said.
With over 1,200 delegates expected for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit which Obama will attend, security is a major factor in the planning.
With four months to the Summit, organisers have settled on UN office in Gigiri, since it is easier to secure.
The UN complex is also a stone’s throw away from the US Embassy, another of the majorly secure locations in Nairobi that houses US marines and a specialised FBI office.
Only two events that Obama will attend have been confirmed – the Global Entrepreneurship either on July 25 or 26 and a bilateral meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Uhuru has invited the US President to a meeting at State House, Nairobi. Planners working on logistics from either the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport or at Gigiri.
Last week, in an interview with the Star, US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec said the two events have been confirmed.
“We are still at early stages of planning the visit. President Obama will meet the Head of State and will attend the summit,” Godec said.
He however said the plans were in early stages adding it is not clear whether Obama would be in the country on July 25 and 26 or he will visit for a single day.
The Summit will take place from July 24 to 26 with the first day having events related to the youth and women.
The 2014 Summit was in Morocco though Obama did not attend physically but was represented by Vice-President Joe Biden.
This will be President Obama’s fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa during his presidency and the first to Kenya by a US sitting President.