Home News Kenya protests deal blow to Biden’s support for President Ruto

Kenya protests deal blow to Biden’s support for President Ruto

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The street unrest that engulfed Kenya’s capital on Tuesday dealt a blow to the Biden administration’s close ties with President William Ruto, a powerful U.S. ally on a continent where U.S. influence is rapidly waning.

Just the day before, President Biden Official name Kenya is a key ally outside NATO and Mr Ruto had just seen off the first 400 Kenyan police officers heading to Haiti for a controversial security mission funded largely by the United States.

Kenya’s designation as a non-NATO ally clears the way for greater security cooperation between Kenya and the United States. It was one of the main takeaways from Ruto’s state visit to Washington last month, the first by an African leader in 16 years. At the White House, the Kenyan leader was treated to a state dinner that included celebrity guests and former President Barack Obama, whose father is Kenyan.

For Mr Ruto, the state visit is the pinnacle of his globe-trotting presidency. Dozens of countries The Biden administration has been working to strengthen strategic partnerships with African countries since winning the hotly contested presidential election in August 2022. For the Biden administration, it is an opportunity to consolidate its important relationships in Africa at a time when rivals such as Russia and China are expanding their influence.

Yet Mr Ruto’s domestic approval ratings have plummeted over what he says are tough economic measures needed to get Kenya’s troubled state finances back on track. Many Kenyans, especially the middle class, feel they are being forced to pay more than their fair share — especially as Mr Ruto’s government has shown little sign of cracking down on the high-level corruption that has plagued Kenyan governments for decades.

Public discontent has sparked days of protests that reached a low point on Tuesday when police fired tear gas and weapons at a protest near parliament in Nairobi. Amnesty International and several civil society groups said at least five people were killed.

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller condemned the violence at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, saying: “We mourn the loss of life and the injuries and extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. We urge all parties to exercise restraint in order to restore order and provide space for dialogue.”

The U.S. Embassy in Kenya joins 12 other Western embassies in A statement was issued on Tuesday The statement said they were “shocked” by the scenes around Kenya’s parliament and “deeply concerned” by allegations that some protesters had been abducted by security forces. It called on “all parties to exercise restraint.”

Ruto has a close relationship with the U.S. ambassador to Kenya, Meg Whitman, a former American business executive who accompanied Ruto on a trip to Silicon Valley last summer, where she visited Google, Apple and Intel.

Ms. Whitman, a former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard and eBay, is now a vocal advocate for American companies to set up shop in Kenya, a thriving hub for tech startups and innovation sometimes called Africa’s “Silicon Valley.”

Mr. Ruto and Ms. Whitman often spoke informally by phone, according to U.S. and Kenyan officials. Sometimes there is almost no notificationMs Whitman has been strongly criticised by Kenyan opposition leaders who say she is too coddled by Mr Ruto.

“I want to tell this rogue ambassador to stop harassing Kenyans,” said Raila Odinga, a veteran opposition leader who lost to Ruto in the 2022 election. Last August said.

Ruto has won support from Western countries by advocating a radical reform of the international financial system and more debt relief to stimulate economic growth in Africa.

He has pushed for greater African representation at the top levels of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, institutions currently dominated by wealthy countries, and for business to invest inwards to take advantage of abundant renewable energy in countries like Kenya.

Until recently, it seemed like he was on to something: During Ruto’s visit to Washington, Microsoft and the UAE artificial intelligence company G42 Said to invest $1 billion A green data center in Kenya, the country’s largest ever digital investment.

Michael Levenson Contributed reporting.

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