Kenyan president on “historic” visit to the United States

It is a “historic” visit, underlines the Kenyan press in unison. Since May 20, the President of Kenya, William Ruto, has been traveling to the United States, where he is scheduled to meet his American counterpart, Joe Biden, on Thursday. This state visit is a first for an African leader in more than fifteen years. The last one dates back to 2008, when President George W. Bush invited the President of Ghana, John Kufuor, to the White House.

Officially, the meeting of heads of state marks the sixtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Above all, it highlights Kenya’s place as a privileged ally of the United States in East Africa. According to the Kenyan daily The Standard, the Biden administration particularly wishes to strengthen its security and economic ties with Kenya in reaction to “China’s growing influence in the region”.

Leading voice of the continent

A stable power in the region, Kenya is also one of the leaders of democracy on a continent where coups have increased since 2021. “This corresponds to one of the major objectives of American foreign policy, the diffusion of democracy and democratic standards on a global scale,” notes political science professor David Monda, interviewed by the daily Nation.

The visit also embodies the United States’ desire to relaunch ties with Africa, thereby strengthening William Ruto’s stature on the international scene. Since his election, the Kenyan president has indeed strived to establish himself as one of the dominant voices on the continent. The announced deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers in Haiti, a first contingent of which should arrive there this week, contributes to this momentum.

William Ruto’s first stop in the United States, Monday May 20, thus took on regional accents, notes The East African. During a speech at the Carter Center in Atlanta, he spoke about climate change and “the unjust international financial architecture”, which contribute to the overindebtedness of many countries. “The appeal of democracy could diminish if supporters of freedom of choice continue to flounder in poverty,” warned the Kenyan president.

“Charm offensive” for investments

“[William] Ruto increasingly appears as the new kid on the African diplomatic scene, with fresh and revolutionary ideas about how African countries should interact with the rest of the world as partners and not as left behind,” Vincent Ongore, professor at the Technical University of Kenya, explains to the Nation.

Working on this image, William Ruto has led a “charm offensive” since his election by increasing exchanges with his counterparts. “Hardly a month goes by without the country welcoming a head of state,” observes The Standard, which notes that the Kenyan president, “perceived as pro-Western,” has also received Russian, Iranian and Chinese officials. and North Korean.

William Ruto particularly wishes to promote the economic image of Kenya, which he would like to make a flagship destination for investments on the continent. In the United States, he should therefore plead to obtain preferential treatment for Kenya in trade agreements that link the United States to Africa, specifies the daily The Star.

But, in The Standard, historian Macharia Munene warns: if William Ruto is seen as the “darling” of the United States, Kenya’s relations with the United States could change in the event of the election of Donald Trump as president. White House in November 2024.

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