Biden to designate Kenya as key non-NATO ally during Ruto’s visit

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United States President Joe Biden has pledged to designate Kenya as the first key non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa, marking a significant step in deepening bilateral ties. This announcement came during a news conference at the White House on Thursday as Kenyan President William Ruto made a state visit to Washington, DC.

Biden emphasized the symbolic importance of this designation and its implications for future cooperation. “Our joint counterterrorism operations have degraded ISIS [ISIL] and al-Shabab across East Africa, our mutual support for Ukraine has rallied the world to stand behind the UN Charter, and our work together on Haiti is helping pave the way to reduce instability and insecurity,” he stated. The designation of Kenya as a key non-NATO ally reflects the country’s elevated status from a regional partner to a global influence, particularly in counterterrorism.

Kenya joins 18 other nations, including Israel, Brazil, and the Philippines, that have been designated as major non-NATO allies by the US. This status is largely symbolic but underscores the strong military and strategic ties between the two nations. The announcement coincided with Ruto and Biden’s discussions at the White House, part of Ruto’s state visit to the US, aimed at strengthening security, trade, technological, and health collaborations.

The visit, branded the Nairobi-Washington Vision, highlights Biden’s efforts to position the US as a preferred partner for African nations over China, which has increasingly invested in the continent through high-interest loans. In a year marked by political upheaval in Africa, including military coups and conflicts, the US seeks to counter the growing influence of China and Russia.

The discussions also covered a US-backed initiative for a Kenya-led police force deployment to Haiti, intended to support the Haitian National Police amidst escalating gang violence. Approximately 1,000 Kenyan police officers are expected to participate in this mission. President Ruto affirmed their commitment to the stabilization of Haiti through this Multinational Security Support Mission.

In their joint statement, Biden and Ruto announced new US investments in Kenya’s green energy and health manufacturing sectors and plans to address Kenya’s substantial debt, largely owed to China. The US International Development Finance Corporation has also expanded its portfolio in Kenya to over $1 billion, signifying a strong economic partnership.

Reflecting on the visit, Ruto expressed confidence in the strengthened partnership between the two countries, saying, “During our discussions, I witnessed firsthand President Biden’s and the US government’s determination to make our partnership work… in Joe Biden, Kenya and Africa have a strong and committed friend.”

Biden, who is campaigning for re-election in November, has indicated plans to visit the African continent in February if he secures a second term, further emphasizing the US commitment to engaging with African nations.

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