It came a day after Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, who is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused of crimes against humanity, told worshippers at a church service that homosexuality was “against the plan” of God.
“We have heard that in the US they have allowed gay relations and other dirty things,” Ruto said, according to the Daily Nation newspaper.
“I want to say as a Christian leader that we will defend our country Kenya, we will stand for our faith and our country.”
– Afraid Obama ‘will preach equality’ –
Ruto made similar comments in May when US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Kenya.
Homophobia is prevalent in many African countries and gay sex remains illegal in several nations, including Kenya where it was outlawed under British colonial legislation.
The march Monday was organised by the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya, a coalition of several churches.
Obama’s visit later this month will be his fourth to Africa since becoming US president, but his first to Kenya since taking office in 2009. He will also travel to Ethiopia.
Pro-gay rights activists warned of rising intolerance in Kenya, including attacks on homosexuals and alleged cases of lesbians being raped to “cure” them.
“The anti gay movement is spreading to Kenya… cases of discrimination and violence are increasing because of the very homophobic speeches,” said lawyer Erik Gitari, from the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
“Obama has been associated with equality and liberation, being the first black US president. They are afraid that he will preach equality here,” said Gitari.
In conservative Christian and Muslim countries in Africa, homophobia is a vote-winner.
In Uganda, legislators sought the death penalty for homosexuality and although the anti-gay law was watered down and then overturned, ruling party MPs remain eager to see it passed.
Nigeria and Gambia have passed tough new anti-gay laws in recent years, with Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, calling homosexuals “ungodly, Satanic… vermins [sic]” in a speech last year.
In Kenya, too, a cross-party parliamentary group is seeking stricter application of existing anti-gay legislation.
Kenya’s deputy president has said there is “no room” for homosexuality in Kenyan society, a widely-shared view in African countries that puts their leaders at odds with Western aid donors who back gay rights.
William Ruto made the remarks at a church service on Sunday, the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for talks. The United States has been at the forefront of calls for gay rights in Africa and criticizes anti-gay laws on the continent.
“The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and those others,” Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in the national Swahili language, according to an online video posted by Kenyan broadcaster KTN.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Kerry was not familiar with Ruto’s remarks but said it was the U.S. position that “all people are created equal.”