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Counterterrorism, Economic Development Key Issues for Kerry in Kenya


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a baby elephant while touring the Sheldrick Center Elephant Orphanage at the Nairobi National Park, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry takes a selfie with a baby elephant while touring the Sheldrick Center Elephant Orphanage at the Nairobi National Park, Sunday, May 3, 2015, in Nairobi, Kenya.

After an afternoon of touring Nairobi National Park, which included an up-close encounter with baby elephants and scenic views of wildlife, Secretary of State John Kerry is preparing to turn his attention to counterterrorism and economic development issues.

On Monday, Kerry meets with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and other top officials as well as some of the country's opposition leaders.

The visit comes at a time of heightened concern about attacks in neighboring countries carried out by al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked militant group based in Somalia.

The group launched one such attack several weeks ago at Kenya's Garissa University. The attack left 147 people dead.

In a background briefing, a senior State Department official said discussing ways to more effectively deal with threats posed by al-Shabab would be a key focal point for Kerry.

"Our message is that fighting terrorism requires a multi-faced approach," the official said.

The United States has been conducting drone strikes and providing support to African Union troops fighting al-Shabab militants. The official said engaging with regional leaders on environmental and political conditions were also part of the U.S. strategy.

During his time in Kenya, Kerry will also visit Nairobi's August 7 Memorial Park, the site of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing that left more than 200 people dead.

The attack at the embassy in Kenya and one carried out at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, were a "wake-up call" for the United States, said Peter Pham, the director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.

"A call for a course of correction on our perception of Africa," said Pham.

He said the attacks prompted the U.S. government to take a closer look at its engagement in East Africa.

"They came less than two years after a Department of Defense document on U.S. strategy in sub-Saharan Africa declared, amazingly, for those of us who know, love and work on Africa, that in the eyes of the planners who wrote that document, that Africa had and I quote 'little strategic value for the United States,' " said Pham.

After visiting Kenya, Kerry travels to Djibouti, the home of a U.S. military hub for the Horn of Africa region.

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