President Kenyatta on gay rights in Kenya
On today’s FAREED ZAKARIA GPS (10:00am and 1:00pm in North America) Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke about domestic homeland security and the state of rights for homosexuals in Kenya.
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FULL INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST: The East African nation of Kenya has seen great highs and great lows of late. In April, Al Shabaab militants stormed across the porous border from Somalia and killed almost 150 people at a Kenyan university. That followed the infamous Westgate Mall siege – also by Al Shabaab – that killed 67 people and lasted 4 days. In July, President Obama made his first trip as President to his father’s native land. In the weeks leading up the President’s arrival, the U.S. conducted drone strikes against Al Shabaab in their sanctuary of Somalia. I recently had the chance to sit down with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to discuss terror, economics, and playing host to President Obama.
ZAKARIA: President Kenyatta, pleasure to have you on.
UHURU KENYATTA, PRESIDENT OF KENYA: Happy to see you.
ZAKARIA: Let’s talk first about terrorism. The world has been astonished over the last few years to see the rise of – first it was Al Qaeda type affiliates, now it appears to be ISIS type affiliates in Africa, Why is this happening?
KENYATTA: I think the best way to put this is that this is really, this is an argument I’ve been putting, this is not really a Kenyan situation. You’ve first of all got to recognize the neighborhood that we live in. You know we had a failed state right next to our border, a state where there was no rule of law, there was no government, it was just open vastland. So when Al Qaeda sort of took root and they didn’t take root in Kenya, they found in Somalia, a haven where they could do their training, they could do almost anything.
ZAKARIA: You must have studied though this issue of why some Muslims get radicalized because you have a Muslim population in Kenya and some have gotten radicalized. You must look at Boko Haram in Nigeria and think about the same thing. What is the answer? What is – what seems to be attractive to young men particularly?
KENYATTA: One let’s put it that first and foremost let’s say that there may be genuine grievances, they may have.
But then on top of it you’ve got this group of radical preachers who come and give a very warped view of religion you know at Friday – at Friday Mosque. You know start telling them that what you’re doing you know you’re doing for god, you’re doing for you know, it’s for your religion and for God, right?
Now this is what we’ve really got to focus ourselves on. You know how do you make this not so attractive? We got to start creating the Muslim leadership in the world to start saying “no” Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda do not represent the true faith; this is the true faith.
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about economics. For a while Africa was seen as this great hope but a lot of investors I talk to and a lot of businessmen say much of the reform that they had hoped would take place in Africa has stalled.
Because at the – you know between corruption and dysfunction and bad government there is still so much of it in Africa that it’s blocking progress. Would you agree with that?
KENYATTA: I would look at it differently. I would look at it and say that the African renaissance is still on. I would say that yes indeed we do have challenges and challenges have been there. There is actual true realization that we need to reform our system to match the growth and to sustain the growth trajectory that we’ve taken.
This is why Kenyans chose for themselves a new constitution in 2010 that sought to reorganize the way we manage our business as a country. That’s why they removed certain powers from the President, and gave them to independent institutions to remove that personality driven cult that one man controls the entire system. And I believe this is working.
ZAKARIA: But people still say you are supremely powerful, you personally.
KENYATTA: Well I don’t know about supremely powerful but if you – if you actually look at the situation that we have today in Kenya and compare it to where we were before that is actually you know not the case. I have no power to appoint or fire judges any more. Really my role is more or less an understand of saying that whatever the commission does you know the judiciary has gained its independence.
The same applies to the legislature. Now where the issue of power comes from is where they say oh but you control Parliament. But yes it’s true, we have a majority in Parliament, we have that majority because the people chose to give that majority to the party to which I belong to.
ZAKARIA: When people talk about gay rights to you and President Obama did this on his visit there. You say look, we have our culture we have our traditions, don’t try to impose your values on us. The problem for many in the west is that it’s not really seen as a matter of cultural values it’s seen as a matter of innate human rights that these people are – you know that you are in effect depriving people of their rights merely because of something that is God-given. That is – that they were born with, that there is increasing scientific evidence that this is the case. And why would you persecute people for something that they have ultimately no control over?
KENYATTA: Let me make it clear to you and put it this way, right. I think first and foremost we’re all saying that whatever society you come from right, the principal aim is that you must give the people you know their right to choose, all right?
Now where we are and at the level of development that we are in, I am not saying that these people don’t have their rights, that’s not what I’m saying. I am just saying that the majority – the majority in our society yes, do not wish to legalize, yes, this issue of gay rights.
ZAKARIA: Can you persuade them?
KENYATTA: The people in Kenya are not, at this point in time, and that’s exactly what I said when we were with President Obama, yes. To them this is not an issue that they are going to put at the center. They have more pressing issues.
However, that said and done I am also, right, and will not allow people to persecute any individuals yes. Or just to beat them, or to you know torture them, you know.
ZAKARIA: But you do allow persecution because they’re – because they’re criminalized.
KENYATTA: What I’m saying witch hunts — what I am saying is witch hunts. You know we won’t allow people to take the law into their own hands and harass and no we won’t. All right. Every individual has a right to be protected by the law and that’s stated in our constitution, all right.
But what we are saying is that as a society, right, we do not accept some of these values, right. And this is where I am saying we have to get synergies. You’re not going to create the United States or Great Britain or the Netherlands in Kenya, or in Nigeria or Senegal overnight. We have to understand that these are processes and they take time.
ZAKARIA: President Kenyatta, pleasure to have you on.
KENYATTA: Been great.