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Hey, I'm Joan, the first person to meet President Obama on Kenyan soil

By Augustine Oduor | July 26th 2015
President Barack Obama hugs 8-year-old Joan Wamaitha after she gave him flowers upon his arrival aboard Air Force One at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. (Photo:Reuters)

Nairobi, Kenya: When the Air Force One touched down two minutes after 8pm Friday evening, all eyes were set on the world’s most powerful President, Barack Obama.

It had been long time coming and after several hours of wait, nothing would have distracted the sharply trained eyes of Kenyans from the anticipated arrival of President Obama.

But what many Kenyans did not immediately see was the eight-year-old girl who stood at the foot of the plane staircase holding a bouquet of flowers.

Dressed in a white dress, white gloves and a white headband, Joan Wamaitha, 8, carefully held a beautiful blend of yellow, red and white flowers, pensively waiting to present to the visitor.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and a host of Cabinet Secretaries lined up as the doors of the plane opened to usher in the first sitting American President to visit Kenya.

As Obama emerged from the plane, he made his signature wave and in quick successive steps, darted down the plane stairway.

As he completed the 27th step of the stairway, the presence of little Wamaitha buoyed Obama as he warmly hugged the young girl and charted for about 30 seconds, even posing for photos.

Perhaps oblivious of the power of the person she presented flowers to, the standard one pupil at Mariakani Primary School in Nairobi remains the first Kenyan to have shook hands and took pictures with a sitting American President in Kenya.

Legal process

The orphaned girl at Mama Ngina Children’s Home also remains the first person to have engaged an American president on Kenyan soil as the rest of dignitaries waited in reverence.

The children’s home is under the care of Child Welfare Society of Kenya (CWSK).

Efforts by The Standard on Sunday to get the feel of what went round the little Wamaitha’s mind as she met Obama were futile as the CWSK Chief Executive Officer Irene Mureithi said the girl was under great protection.

“We need to go through a legal process to allow her speak to the media. Her case is a sensitive one,” Ms Mureithi said on telephone.

But back in her school, the head teacher said the girl is “inquisitive and outgoing.” “She is an outgoing girl, her grades are good,” said Lucy Obonyo, the school’s head teacher.

Ms Pauline Musyoka, her class teacher also said Wamaitha is a bright student.

What many Kenyans would have liked to know is what Obama and Wamaitha talked about during the short time they exchanged pleasantries.

The good gesture by Obama to bend, hug and chart with the little girl was an emotional moment that saw Kenyans take to various social media platform to express their admiration.

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