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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 23rd May 2024

What President Ruto wants from state visit to US

Patrick Smith

Kenyan President William Ruto's state visit to the United States on 23-24 May, the first by an African leader since 2008, reinforces the country's role as the leading western ally in the region – on climate change, energy policy, Ukraine, trade and tax. Officials from the US and Germany say that Ruto is one of few African leaders to consistently have their ear.

Items on the agenda will include the deployment of an UN-backed police mission to combat gang violence in Haiti, led by 1,000 Kenyan police officers. The mission has been repeatedly delayed by disagreements over its funding from the US and other donors and by a series of court challenges in Nairobi.

Talks on a bilateral trade pact between Kenya and the US started under Joe Biden's predecessor Donald Trump. Biden has continued them but progress has been slow; a deal before November's US presidential polls is unlikely. Ruto will also raise Kenya's interest in shaping the next version of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act snaking its way through Congress. They will also discuss the growing US military presence at Kenya's Manda Bay base in a region facing deepening security crises and geopolitical rivalries. Under Ruto, Kenya has moved far closer to the US position on Israel-Gaza, eastern Congo, Russia and LGBTQ+ rights That distinguishes it from countries such as Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda.