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Pope on security threats: ‘I’m more afraid of the mosquitoes’

Pope Francis greets traditional dancers on his arrival at the airport in Nairobi (AP)

Brushing aside concerns for his security, Pope Francis arrived in Kenya on Wednesday for his first-ever visit to Africa, including to a country torn by sectarian violence.

Francis was received upon arrival at Nairobi’s airport by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nairobi governor Evans Kidero. Kenyan Cardinal Njue and a host of bishops also welcomed the pope amid singing by traditional dance groups.

Francis is also scheduled to visit Uganda and the Central African Republic, which will mark the first time a pope has flown into an active armed conflict. The Central African Republic, or CAR, has been bloodied by a two-year-old spiral of fighting between Christian and Muslims.

Asked while flying to Kenya in his Alitalia jetliner if he was concerned about security risks, the Pope quipped: “I’m more afraid of the mosquitoes.”

Large crowds held back by hundreds of police gathered along the road from the airport and cheered as Francis’ motorcade passed by.

After greeting Kenyatta, Francis was presented with a bouquet of flowers by a boy and a girl and traditional dancers, some dressed in Maasai regalia, and choirs at the airport sang “karibu baba” in Swahili, lyrics which translate to “welcome father.”

Later, Francis was welcomed by an honour guard at the State House and a 21-gun salute.

The Pope wants to bring a message of peace and reconciliation to an Africa torn by extremist violence, but security concerns are so high that he might be forced to make changes to his itinerary for the final leg of the trip.

For a full schedule of the Pope visit to Africa go here.