Kenya Witnesses Obama Security Bubble

Features  |  07.22.15   By Politics Africa Staff

Obama Motorcade Kenya

Obama’s motorcade will navigate Kenyan roads

Kenyan’s and visitors alike are witnessing with great intrigue, the tightly managed network of aircrafts, vehicles and robust encrypted communication equipment that are used to create the U.S. President’s security zone wherever he travels, commonly referred to as the “bubble.”  

The “bubble” is put together and managed by the best U.S. Government security and military personnel, seen and unseen.  Perhaps, one the biggest drawbacks are the restrictions on movement that come with it.  The U.S. President has the ability to completely shut down a major portion of a metropolitan city, which he will do in Nairobi.

I was forwarded a text message, from my sister who lives in the northern suburbs of Nairobi, that said this.  “Due to the upcoming visit of the Honorable Barrack Obama, President of the United States of America, the Traffic Department would like to inform the General Public of the closure of Mombasa road and sections of its feeder road.” ….  “All flights to and from Kenyan airspace will be banned for 72 hours before and 12 hours after the departure of the American President.”  In a country that is used to hosting heads of state, this will be the most confining visit for many living in Nairobi and other big cities in the country.

Hotels in Nairobi, and they’re lots of them, are at 100% occupancy.  No doubt made up of conference participants and other VIPS, but also hundreds of U.S. security personnel including members of the U.S. Military, Secret Service, Capital Police (protecting U.S. Parliamentarians), and other intelligence agency personnel.

Marine One in Kenya

Marine One Designate stages at Kenyatta University in Nairobi (Source: Nation Media Group)

Roslyn Academy, a private American school strategically located next to the U.S. Embassy housing community on a restricted and gated road, will likely be host to multiple Osprey aircraft, likely from Camp Lemonnier in nearby Djibouti which hosts the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), a dynamic operational headquarters, that counters extremist terrorist organizations in East Africa, under the command of AFRICOM – America’s combatant command responsible for managing America’s security risks in the region.

CJTF-HOA leverages the flexibility of its strategic location as a critical power projection platform and works with partner nations, coalition forces, and interagency/intergovernmental organizations to towards common missions.

U.S. Secret Service personnel are no doubt working with Kenyan government security to secure key buildings, transportation routes and collect intelligence on any potential threats.

The President’s specially modified vehicle, dubbed “the beast,” which can withstand most explosives and chemical attacks, will likely be shadowed overhead by helicopter seen and U.S. surveillance aircraft, unseen, as he travels on Kenyan roads that have been pre-inspected and secured.

Every building he enters will be swept, by his security personnel, something commonly done for most Presidents hours before arrival at venues, and locked down after the final sweep for bombs, stored weapons or any other potential threats.

Osprey in KenyaIt’s also likely that most if not all the food the President eats will be transported from the United States.  The food is procured by assigned staff and secured for the duration of the trip.  This includes water.  Something to watch could be if President Obama has the usual bottled bottle brand commonly trusted by State House Kenya(Keringet), in front of him or a U.S. branded bottle of water.

Contingency plans likely include a fleet of helicopters ready to evacuate him, senior staff and members of congress to a secure location.  Many people don’t realize that when he travels there are more than one aircraft with him prepared to fly him out in case Air Force One is incapacitated.  I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there is more than one U.S. branded 747 in the skies above East Africa this weekend.

Perhaps the most important question is will most Kenyan’s in the city wanting to get a glimpse of President Obama be able to.  It’s unlikely.  The best place to catch the President will be front and center of your television screen.  That is unless you’re on the VIP list for one the featured functions.

It’s probably why President Obama, made clear during a recent press conference that he would have preferred to visit the homeland of his father as a private citizen without all the security restrictions.  “I’ll be honest with you, visiting Kenya as a private citizen is probably more meaningful to me than visiting as President.” Mr. Obama said. “Because I can actually get outside of a hotel room or a conference center.”  I hope that means that he plans many more trips to his fathers homeland in the coming years as a private citizen.







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