Biden will name Kenya a major non-NATO ally during state visit

Politics

Biden will name Kenya a major non-NATO ally during state visit

President Biden greets Kenya’s President William Ruto at the South Portico of the White House on May 22. The two leaders met with a group of tech CEOs the day before the official state visit.

MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/AFP


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MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images/AFP

President Biden is welcoming Kenya’s President WIlliam Ruto for a state visit on Thursday, a trip aimed at showing his administration wants to deepen U.S. ties with the African continent.

As part of a long list of new agreements with Kenya, Biden will announce he plans to designate the country as a major non-NATO ally, which comes with some defense trade benefits.

Kenya will be the first sub-Saharan African nation to receive the designation, which recognizes the country’s contributions to counterterrorism work, and its work leading a multinational force in Haiti.

It’s been a long time since an African leader had the honor of a state visit. Former President George W. Bush rolled out the red carpet for Ghana in 2008 and Kenya in 2003. Former President Barack Obama had a summit with a state-like dinner for 50 leaders in 2014.

“This is the first state visit by an African head of state in nearly 20 years. It is long overdue,” Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.

China, Russia and other nations have been actively investing in the continent, and Biden has sought to try to reestablish U.S. influence, starting with a summit in 2022.

Since then, Vice President Harris, first lady Jill Biden and seven of Biden’s cabinet members have since visited Africa, but Biden himself has not, despite promising to do so. He told reporters on Wednesday that he would travel there in February – a goal that obviously will hinge on whether he wins reelection.

Biden met with technology business leaders from Kenya and the United States on Wednesday, recognizing the country’s growth in the tech sector.

The White House said the two leaders also plan to focus on debt and climate issues during their meeting.

In the evening, Biden will hold a gala with performances by the Howard Gospel Choir and country star Brad Paisley in what first lady Jill Biden described to reporters as “an elegant dinner under the stars, in a pavilion made almost entirely of glass, looking up at our one sky.”

First lady Jill Biden arrives at a press preview of the state dinner for Kenya on May 22.

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images/AFP


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