WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama will land in Kenya on Friday with a mission to strengthen US security and economic ties, but his personal connection to his father's birthplace will dominate a trip that Kenyans view as a native son returning home.
Kenya is a critical Western ally in the battle against the Somali Islamist group al Shabaab, which massacred 148 people in April at a Kenyan university near the Somali border. Obama is likely to focus talks in Nairobi on security cooperation.
He will also spend private time with family members but will not travel to the village that is most closely associated with the family name, White House officials said.
"Just as anybody is curious about their heritage, visiting Kenya provides him an opportunity to make that personal connection," Valerie Jarrett, a senior aide and family friend of Obama, said in an interview.
Obama, who made a trip to Kenya while serving as a US senator in 2006, has voiced some disappointment that he will have less freedom to see the country during this trip, but said he was looking forward to it nonetheless.
"My hope is ...that we can deliver a message that the US is a strong partner not just for Kenya, but for Sub-Saharan Africa generally," he said.