Biden pledges to designate Kenya as ‘non-NATO ally’ during Ruto’s visit | Politics News

US President Biden says he will work with Congress to give Kenya a largely symbolic title as the two countries deepen their ties.

US President Joe Biden has pledged to designate Kenya as the country’s first key non-NATO ally in sub-Saharan Africa as Kenyan President William Ruto makes a state visit to Washington, DC , to deepen ties between the two nations.

During a White House news conference on Thursday, Biden said he planned to work with Congress to give Kenya the largely symbolic title.

“That’s the fulfillment of years of collaboration,” he said.

“Our joint counterterrorism operations have degraded ISIS (ISIL) and Al Shabab throughout East Africa, our mutual support for Ukraine has mobilized the world to support the United Nations Charter, and our joint work in Haiti is helping to pave the way to reduce instability and insecurity.”

The United States has designated 18 countries as non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil and the Philippines.

The label reflects Kenya’s rise from a regional partner that has long cooperated with US counterterrorism operations on the continent to a global influence.

Thursday’s announcement came as Ruto and Biden held talks at the White House during the Kenyan leader’s state visit to the United States, which began this week.

Kenyan President William Ruto
Ruto speaks during a meeting with the US president and business leaders in the East Room of the White House on May 22, 2024 (Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

Reporting from the White House, Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett said Ruto’s visit also “marks 60 years of diplomatic relations and cooperation between the United States and Kenya.”

“There are security links, trade links and innovation when it comes to technology, also when it comes to global health,” Halkett said.

The Kenyan leader’s trip is the sixth state visit organized by Biden and the first by an African president since 2008.

This week’s meetings, called Nairobi-Washington Vision, come amid Biden’s calls to African nations that the United States can be a better partner than China as Beijing deepens its investment in the continent, often at through high interest loans.

Last year, Africa’s political landscape was upended by a series of military coups, wars and shaky elections that gave the United States’ rivals, China and Russia, more significant influence.

The White House talks also took place as a U.S.-backed initiative to send a Kenyan-led police force to crisis-hit Haiti appears to be taking hold.

Kenyan officials recently said the deployment, aimed at helping the Haitian National Police restore order during a surge in deadly gang violence in the Caribbean nation, is imminent. About 1,000 Kenyan police officers will participate.

US President Joe Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto shake hands at the White House.
Ruto and Biden discussed a Kenyan-led police mission in Haiti, investments, trade and joint military operations during Ruto’s state visit (Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

“We affirm our mutual commitment to the stabilization of Haiti through the Multinational Security Support Mission,” Ruto said during Thursday’s press conference.

The deployment, Halkett reported, is part of “a long tradition of counterterrorism efforts and cooperation between the United States and Kenya.”

In a joint statement after their talks, Biden and Ruto announced a series of new US-backed investments in green energy and healthcare manufacturing along with a plan to reduce Kenya’s high debt burden, most of which is owed to China.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation also announced deals this week that bring its portfolio in Kenya to more than $1 billion, according to the statement.

“During our conversations, I witnessed firsthand the determination of President Biden and the US government to make our partnership work,” Ruto told reporters.

“As my visit draws to a close, I am confident that our commitments have laid a solid foundation so that we can continue the good work we have begun with stronger faith and greater hope for success because in Joe Biden, Kenya and Africa “They have a strong force and a committed friend.”

Biden, who is seeking re-election in November, has said he plans to visit the African continent in February if he wins a second term.

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