Kenyan president 4-day state visit to the U.S.: What’s at stake?

by orderketologenic

Kenya’s President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, USA on Monday (May. 20) ahead of a state visit to Washington.

The visit to Atlanta is the first segment of Kenya’s diplomatic engagement with the United States.

President Ruto delivered a speech on governance and democratic values at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.

“I welcome President Ruto’s engagements with civic leaders on issues of democratic governance while in Atlanta, as well as his focus on our people-to-people ties, public health partnerships, educational exchanges, investments in shared prosperity, and his engagements with Atlanta’s African Diaspora,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Ruto will be hosted by US president Joe Biden in Washington, D.C. on May 23.

READ ALSO: Biden to welcome Kenyan president to White House for state visit in May

Earlier this year, the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the visit “will strengthen [the countries] shared commitment to advance peace and security, expand our economic ties, and stand together in defense of democratic values.”

Ruto and Biden are set to “discuss ways to bolster cooperation in areas including people-to-people ties, trade and investment, technological innovation, climate and clean energy, health, and security.”

Previous states by Kenyan leader visits were made in 1980 and 2003.

Kenya was among the top 10 countries of origin for Black immigrants to the US according to a Pew Research Center analysis of the 2019 American Community Survey (IPUMS).

Defence partners

Kenya is a key US ally in eastern Africa. The two nations have a relatively strong military cooperation.

Last year, Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed an agreement that guides the countries’ defense relations for the next five years as the war in East Africa against the al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab extremist group intensifies.

The United States put forward a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized Kenya to lead a multinational police force to help combat gangs in Haiti that control much of the capital.

William Ruto will be the first African leader to be hosted during a state visit since US president Joe Biden was elected in 2020.

Biden said in December 2022 that he would visit sub-Saharan Africa the following year, which would have made him the first U.S. president to travel there in a decade. The president pledged at the end of a U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington with 49 leaders, in which he suggested the continent would be a strategic focus as the U.S. made political and financial commitments. 

READ ALSO: Vice-President Kamala Harris to visit Africa in latest U.S. outreach

But he has yet to set foot on the continent. High ranking US officials have been to different African countries since Biden was elected. Those include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, US State Department Secretary and vice-president Kamala Harris.

The visit by William Ruto marks the 60th anniversary of U.S.-Kenya diplomatic relations.

Additional sources • AP – State House Kenya – US Department of State – US Office of the Historian

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