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By Margaret Talev and Mike Dorning, Bloomberg News (TNS)

NAIROBI, Kenya — President Barack Obama urged Kenya and other African nations to abandon laws criminalizing homosexuality, comparing anti-gay policies to racial segregation and saying equal treatment for all groups is crucial to economic growth and the fight against terrorism.

“I’ve been consistent all across Africa on this,” Obama said in Nairobi on the first full day of a two-country visit to East Africa focused on trade, investment, and security. As a black man in America, he said, “I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently under the law.”

Obama addressed the topic at a news conference with Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya, where homosexual acts are illegal and gays often are subject to harassment.

Kenyatta called gay rights a “non-issue” in his country. He said Kenyans are more focused on countering militants, bringing more women into the economy, and improving the nations infrastructure.

“The fact of the matter is that Kenya and the United States share so many values,” Kenyatta said. “But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share.”

Obama framed the debate as part of the broader effort to prevent the spread of extremism, saying that any group that is marginalized becomes susceptible to recruiting by militants.

(Angela Greiling Keane in Washington contributed to this report.)

Photo: Presidents Barack Obama and Uhuru Kenyatta wave to delegates at the Opening Plenary at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in Nairobi, Kenya on July 25, 2015. U.S. Embassy Nairobi via Flickr

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