Biden honors Kenya with US state visit, the first for any African nation since 2008

President Joe Biden has welcomed Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House for a three-day state visit as the East African nation prepares to deploy forces to Haiti as part of a U.N.-led effort to try to calm a spiralling security crisis in the Caribbean country.

Some 1,000 Kenyan police officers are set to arrive soon in Haiti, part of a multilateral security support mission that aims to help quell gang violence. Other countries expected to back up Kenyan forces include the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad and Bangladesh.

Kenya – US Partnership

The United States for years has partnered with Kenya on counterterrorism efforts in Africa, including battling the extremist group al-Shabab. Kenya has participated in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and an international maritime task force launched by the Biden administration in December in response to Houthi attacks against vessels operating in the Red Sea.

Ruto’s decision send police forces to Haiti was welcomed by a top Biden administration official as an “unprecedented undertaking” and a show of global leadership by Kenya.

Kenya is the first African nation since 2008 to be honored by the U.S. with a state visit.

“This is a partnership that is deep and broad,” White House principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said this week. He added that it starts with combating terrorism in Kenya’s own region in Africa and extends to “becoming a net security provider in our own hemisphere” with the coming deployment to Haiti.

The Visit

The state visit opens when the two leaders take part in a White House meeting with CEOs in the afternoon that will focus on strengthening ties between the American and Kenyan tech sectors. Executives from Teneo, Alphabet, and Semiconductor Technologies Limited are among those expected to attend, according to the White House.

First Lady Jill Biden greeted Ruto and his wife, Rachel Ruto, upon their arrival at Joint Base Andrews outside Washington.

Biden and Ruto will hold formal talks and a joint news conference on Thursday before a state dinner. Ruto is also set to participate Friday in an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Vice President Kamala Harris.

Ruto started his U.S. visit in Atlanta, where he visited The King Center, met NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, and stopped by the Tyler Perry Studios.

The U.S. and Kenya are marking their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. White House officials said the leaders’ agenda will include trade and investment, technological innovation, climate and clean energy, health and security.

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the two countries would announce “substantial commitments” to elevate Kenya’s technological sector. Kenya hosts Google and Microsoft offices and has positioned itself as the technology hub of East Africa, known as the Silicon Savannah.

Biden gathered dozens of African leaders in Washington in December 2022 to make the case that the United States under his watch was “all in” on Africa’s future and laid out billions in promised government funding and private investment on the continent in health, infrastructure, business and technology. The Democrat also promised to visit sub-Saharan Africa in 2023.

But other priorities got in the way last year, including the Israel-Hamas war and Biden’s long battle with Republicans to renew funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia. The promised visit to Africa by Biden never materialized.

All the while, Russia has tried to expand its economic and military influence across Africa. U.S. troops were recently ordered out of Niger by the West African country’s ruling junta and are expected to complete their withdrawal by the middle of September. Meanwhile, Russia has deployed military trainers to Niger.

The United States has also fallen well behind rival China in investment in Africa, which has become a key battleground in the competition between the major powers.

Biden and his aides say they expect stiff economic competition with Beijing in Africa, but have sought to make the case that Washington is a far more reliable partner in Africa for the long-term.

To that end, Biden acted early in his presidency to devote more attention on Africa than his most recent predecessors, including by hosting nearly 50 leaders for the U.S.-Africa leaders summit in December 2022. But since the summit, analysts say, the administration’s engagement has trailed off.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Africa Program, noted that that Biden has hosted just one African leader, Angola President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, for talks at the White House since the summit.

Source: Africa News

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