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Biden says Kenya in line to be 1st sub-Saharan non-NATO ally

May 23, 2024

Kenyan President William Ruto is the first African leader to make a state visit to Washington since 2008. US President Joe Biden announced Kenya would be made a major non-NATO ally .

William Ruto and Joe Biden at the White House
Kenya's President William Ruto has embarked on a three-day state visit to the United StatesImage: Susan Walsh/AP Photo/picture alliance

Kenyan President William Ruto met with US President Joe Biden  in the Oval Office where they spoke about Kenya joining a list of non-NATO US allies.

Ruto's three-day trip to Washington is the first state visit to the United States by an African leader in more than 15 years.

Key announcements

In a joint press briefing, Biden highlighted the 60 years of partnership between the US and Kenya.

"I'm proud to announce we're working with Congress to designate Kenya a major non-NATO ally," Biden said, adding that it was a fulfillment of years of collaboration in joint counter-terrorism operations.

Currently, 18 countries are designated as non-NATO allies, including Israel, Brazil and the Philippines. Kenya would become the first sub-Saharan African country to receive the designation.

While the designation in largely symbolic, it reflects how Kenya has grown in influence as a regional power..

The two countries also said they would work together to support the Somali government in its fight against terrorism and pressed warring parties in Sudan for a ceasefire. They will also work on establishing a strategic dialogue dealing with artificial intelligence.

"My visit takes place at a time when democracy is perceived to be retreating worldwide," Ruto said, standing next to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and other cabinet officials.

"We agreed on the significant opportunity for the US to radically recalibrate its strategy and strengthen its support for Africa," Ruto said.

He called Biden "a strong and committed friend" to Kenya and the rest of the continent.

Leaders hail Nairobi-Washington Vision

The two leaders announced a plan called the Nairobi-Washington Vision, part of which calls on creditor nations to reduce financing barriers for developing countries that have high debt burdens, and to offer debt relief where necessary.

"Countries willing to commit to ambitious reforms and high-quality plans for investments in sustainable development and in addressing global challenges like climate change, pandemics and health threats, and fragility and conflict should be buoyed not abandoned by the international community," the statement for the Nairobi-Washington Vision said.

Ruto and Biden also called on multilateral banks to offer better financing terms.

"High-ambition countries" should receive financial support from international financial institutions, the statement said, adding that creditor countries should provide reprieves.
It comes as the US attempts to position itself as a more favorable economic partner to African countries than China.

Fresh US investment in Kenya

The White House has announced $250 million (€230.6 million) in grants for the World Bank's International Development Association to assist poorer countries facing crises.

The leaders announced new US-backed investments in green energy and health manufacturing, along with a detailed roadmap to cut Kenya's high debt load, most of which is owed to China.

kb,zc/rt (AP, Reuters)