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Why the Biden White House Chose Kenya’s President Ruto for Its First State Visit by an African Leader

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The Biden administration has selected Kenya for its first state visit by an African leader, citing several compelling reasons for this choice. The East African nation has increasingly played a pivotal role on the global stage, exemplified by its recent offer to lead a United Nations peacekeeping mission to Haiti, with operations expected to commence imminently.

Anita Powell, the VOA White House correspondent, interviewed Frances Brown, the newly appointed director for African affairs at the National Security Council, to discuss the forthcoming state visit by Kenyan President William Ruto. Their conversation covered various topics, including technology, climate management, debt relief, democracy, and health. Below are key highlights from their discussion.Why the Biden White House Chose Kenya’s President Ruto for Its First State Visit by an African Leader

Strengthening a Global Partnership

Frances Brown highlighted that the U.S.-Kenya partnership has evolved significantly, moving from a regional to a global focus. “We see many complementarities in our efforts on climate, debt relief for the developing world, and security issues,” she noted. This global perspective is a critical reason for choosing Kenya for this significant state visit.

Shared Democratic Values

Brown emphasized the deep democratic ties between the U.S. and Kenya, noting that both nations are committed to upholding democratic principles. “Our bond as democracies is very strong, and we have deep people-to-people ties,” she said.Why the Biden White House Chose Kenya’s President Ruto for Its First State Visit by an African Leader

Another reason for the visit is the shared approach between the two countries in leveraging the private sector to tackle global challenges. Brown indicated that discussions during the visit would focus on technology, clean energy, climate transition, debt relief, democracy, and health-related issues.

Kenya’s Role in Haiti Peacekeeping

Kenya’s commitment to providing peacekeepers for Haiti has been welcomed by the U.S. administration. Brown highlighted this as an example of Kenya’s willingness to address global issues beyond its region. “The U.S. has supported this mission with $300 million, showcasing our commitment to this important initiative,” she said.

While specifics were not disclosed, Brown hinted at potential new security agreements between the U.S. and Kenya. “Security cooperation with Kenya is a critical aspect of our relationship, and we may see announcements that extend beyond our longstanding cooperation on Somalia,” she explained.

Regarding the U.S. withdrawal from the Sahel, Brown acknowledged the administration’s concerns about the region’s security, especially with Russia’s growing influence. She stressed that the U.S. remains committed to counterterrorism and supporting democracy worldwide. “We’re focused on partnering with democracies to help them deliver for their people,” she added.Why the Biden White House Chose Kenya’s President Ruto for Its First State Visit by an African Leader

Also, read; 5 African Countries with the Highest Number of Airlines in 2024

Discussing trade, Brown reiterated President Biden’s strong support for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which is up for reauthorization next year. She emphasized the importance of AGOA for both the U.S. and African economies. “We hope Congress will act to reauthorize AGOA soon,” she said.

On health, Brown praised the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), highlighting its bipartisan support and its critical role in saving lives across Africa. “PEPFAR is essential, and we are committed to its reauthorization,” she affirmed.

While Brown could not confirm specific travel plans for President Biden to Africa, she emphasized his strong commitment to the continent. “Kenya’s state visit is the first for a non-G20 country this term, reflecting our dedication,” she noted. She also pointed to the numerous visits by U.S. Cabinet officials to Africa, advocating for African Union membership in the G20, and pushing for greater African representation in international financial institutions.White house

New to her role, Brown expressed her enthusiasm for advancing President Biden’s Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy and the initiatives from the African Leaders Summit. She acknowledged the dual challenges of pursuing long-term goals while managing immediate crises. “Balancing these priorities is my focus, and I am thrilled to contribute to this important work,” she concluded.

This state visit underscores the Biden administration’s commitment to deepening its partnership with Kenya and addressing a broad spectrum of global challenges together.

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