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 / Updated  / Source: NBC News

NAIROBI — Kenya's deputy president William Ruto said there is "no room" for homosexuality in Kenyan society in remarks at a church service on Sunday — the day U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in the country for talks.

"The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and those others," Ruto told a Nairobi church congregation in Swahili, according to an online video posted by Kenyan broadcaster KTN.

Speaking to Reuters on Monday, Ruto's spokesman Emmanuel Talam confirmed the deputy president's remarks, adding: "The government believes that homosexual relations are unnatural and un-African."

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and has been so since colonial British rule, which ended in 1963.

The United States — which provides annual aid of nearly $1 billion to Kenya — has been at the forefront of calls for gay rights in Africa and has criticized anti-gay laws on the continent. When neighboring Uganda passed a law last year that toughened prison sentences against gays, Kerry described it as "atrocious." The law was later struck down by a court.

Kenyan activists condemned Ruto's remarks on social media.

"Kenya's deputy president joins an important tradition by Africans in power to spread hate in church on a Sunday," Binyavanga Wainana, an openly gay prominent Kenyan writer said on Twitter.

IN-DEPTH

— Reuters