Friday, 31 July 2015
by Pete Souza, Chief Official White House Photographer
The first time I accompanied Barack Obama to Kenya in 2006, he was a freshman U.S. Senator, ranked 99th in seniority.
I was then a staff photographer for the Chicago Tribune and had been documenting his first two years in the Senate for his hometown newspaper.
I remember then-Senator Obama meeting with NGO’s inside a building in Kibera, considered the largest slum in Africa, just outside Nairobi. When we emerged outside, thousands of people had gathered in the streets surrounding his small motorcade. With only two State Department security personnel by his side, the Senator grabbed a megaphone and made impromptu remarks to the crowd. Hundreds of people were jubilantly banging on our cars in the motorcade as we tried to depart.
Things were different this time. He arrived in Kenya as the President of the United States.
Because of security concerns, his movements around the city of Nairobi were much more limited. He was not able to visit Kibera, or his father’s village, which he had also done in 2006. Yet you could still see the excitement on people’s faces as they lined the streets along the motorcade routes and hung from trees at the Marine One helicopter landing zone. At his speech in the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Nairobi, Secret Service agents were barely able to hold back the excited crowd as they pushed forward to try and shake his hand along the rope line.
During that same trip in 2006, the Senator had also visited the Republic of Djibouti. We weren’t able to accompany him on that leg of the trip. So instead we had to stay overnight at a hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My colleague at the time, Jeff Zeleny — the king of hotel points — was able to secure a suite at the Sheraton hotel. Nine years later, when we returned to Addis Ababa this week, President Obama stayed in the very same suite.