As he began a trip to Africa, President Barack Obama on Thursday voiced support for gay rights on the continent.

Obama is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Kenya and Ethiopia.

Some African leaders have called on Obama to keep his views on the subject to himself.

Obama told the BBC that he plans to make gay rights part of his agenda.

He said that he disagrees with Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, an outspoken opponent of gay rights.

“Everybody deserves fair treatment – equal treatment – in the eyes of the law and the state,” Obama said. “And that includes gays, lesbians, transgender persons.”

“And as somebody who has family in Kenya and knows the history of how the country so often is held back because women and girls are not treated fairly, I think those same values apply when it comes to different sexual orientations,” he added.

Groups such as Human Rights Watch are urging the president to put “pressing human rights concerns” in Kenya and Ethiopia “at the forefront of your discussions.”