During a state visit by Kenyan President William Ruto, the US government signaled a partnership in defense and economy

In a milestone for relations between North America and Africa, United States President Joe Biden declared at the end of May that he wants Kenya to become a great ally of the country. The statement was made during Kenyan President William Ruto’s visit to the White House.

This is the first time in 15 years that the leader of an African country has been received on a state visit in Washington DC Biden wants to take Kenya to status important non-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally. The decision marks a rapprochement in bilateral relations.

If the Kenyan government becomes an important North American ally, it will be classified as MNNA (Major non-NATO ally). The role does not imply the mutual defense commitments characteristic of members of the military alliance, but it signals a high level of cooperation and trust.

For the African country, the new designation will facilitate access to advanced military technologies and strengthen security and defense collaboration with the United States. Additionally, it allows Kenyan companies to bid to repair and maintain US Department of Defense equipment outside of US territory.

US-Kenya diplomacy

Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, the country has developed a good relationship with the US government. From 2007 onwards, the nations became estranged after an internal crisis in the Kenyan government, caused by Mwai Kibaki’s victory in the presidential elections.

At the time, Ruto was identified as one of the leaders in the conflict. He was accused by the ICC (International Criminal Court) of crimes against humanity, including murder, forced deportation of the population and persecution.

With restrictions imposed by the West, the country began to get closer to governments in Africa. Faced with accusations of obstruction of justice, the case against William Ruto and other Kenyan leaders was quashed in 2016.

In 2022, Ruto was elected president of Kenya for the 1st time. Since then, the United States has worked to deepen its relationship with the leader.

In an interview with Poder360East Africa specialist, Marcelo Kanter, says the North American government chose Kenya as a strategic ally on the continent because of the government’s positive image.

Even with the ICC charges, leaders of neighboring countries face a worse reputation than Ruto’s, which arouses Western interest. “In East Africa, countries that have the potential to become partners have leaders who are considered authoritarian. For the United States, a rapprochement with them would be controversial” says the expert.

Partnership between nations

For Kanter, there are several reasons why the alliance is important for countries. One of them is linked to the political crisis in Haiti. The White House believes that Kenya can help in the quest to stabilize the region.

A military intervention in partnership with the African nation may have a better chance of consolidating a Haitian government and containing potential immigrants on the US border with Mexico – an issue of interest to Biden 5 months before the presidential elections.

Kenya has already participated in peace operations in partnership with the US government. The armed forces helped to combat the extremist group al-Shabaab, active in Somalia, a neighboring country. “The United States seeks allies who are willing to engage in such practices, and Kenya has agreed to play this role”explained Kanter.

For Ruto’s government, the interest is mainly economic. There is hope that the AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) legislation, which expires in 2025, will be renewed. The pact exempts taxes from around 70% of exports from African countries to the United States.

Biden also promised a partnership between Silicon Valley and “Silicon Savannah” in Kenya, a technology hub valued at around US$1 billion. Finally, friendship with the North American government can contribute to the African country’s external debt, mainly with measures to obtain debt forgiveness or interest reduction.

This report was produced by journalism intern Ana Sanches Mião under the supervision of assistant editor Ighor Nóbrega.

Source: https://www.poder360.com.br/internacional/a-proposta-de-biden-para-elevar-o-quenia-a-aliado-estrategico/

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