Biden will designate Kenya as ‘major non-Nato ally’ as he hosts president William Ruto for state visit

President Joe Biden will notify Congress that he is designating the Republic of Kenya a “major non-Nato ally” signifying the East African nation’s growing role on the world stage as he hosts Kenyan President William Ruto for a state visit.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Mr Biden’s plans said the decision was part of an administration-wide effort “towards elevating and really acknowledging that Kenya is already a global partner of ours”

The designation is one that the US government grants to nations outside the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with which it has “close and strategic working relationships”. Kenya will be the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to receive such a designation.

The official said Mr Biden’s decision is evidence of one of the major themes of Mr Ruto’s visit, which will be the first state visit by an African leader since 2008. That theme, they said, is Kenya’s “growing leadership worldwide”.

“Kenya has moved from a partner for us who we partner with on regional issues, to a partner with whom we partner on global issues and to solve global challenges,” the official said, citing Kenya’s government having “raised its’ hand when not a lot of other actors did” to assume a leadership role in the multinational security force that is set to be deployed to Haiti to quell months of civil unrest there.

“We’ve been partnering with Congress to provide $300 million to support Kenya’s mission in Haiti so they’re definitely not going alone. But we do see this as a mark of their global partnership for us,” the official added.

Mr Ruth’s arrival in Washington for the state visit marks six decades of formal relations between Washington and Nairobi. It comes nearly three years after Mr Biden outlined a “new vision for a 21st-century US-Africa partnership” and a new US strategy for sub-Saharan Africa.

Kenya President William Ruto takes the oath of office at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 13, 2022 during the inauguration ceremony
Kenya President William Ruto takes the oath of office at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani in Nairobi, Kenya, on September 13, 2022 during the inauguration ceremony (AFP via Getty Images)

The official said the years since the release of those documents have been “all about delivering on that making that vision real,” including by hosting the 2022 US-Africa Leaders’ Summnit, investing more than $55bn into Africa, and dispatching more than 20 members of Mr Biden’s cabinet and heads of executive agencies to the African continent on official business.

“From the Biden administration standpoint, we do believe … that Africa will shape the future and we see Kenya’s growing leadership worldwide as a prime example of this,” they said.

The official also said Mr Ruto’s visit to Washington will see the Biden administration announce other initiatives including on climate and health matters, such as “programs to expand health manufacturing capacity and testing capabilities in Kenya that will serve Africa and the world” and efforts to make “clean energy industrialization” a “core pillar” of the partnership between Washington and Nairobi.

Another “big theme” of the visit, the official said, would be “the idea that this is a partnership anchored in democracy and powered by people”

“Democracy is obviously on the backfoot globally, and we see Kenya as an important, stable democracy in East Africa,” they continued, adding that both the US and Kenyan delegations for the official visit program “feature mayors, some national officials, opposition officials, parliamentarians, county governors [and] civil society”.

“This underscores that our democracies are way bigger than just one person or one institution. So … when we think about the partnership of democracies, we see that as a huge focus of it as well”.

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