US names Kenya as major ally in face of growing Russian influence

US names Kenya as major ally in face of growing Russian influence

US President Joe Biden has named Kenya as a major non-Nato ally, making it the first sub-Saharan African country to receive that designation.

Mr Biden announced the move during a three-day state visit by Kenyan President William Ruto.

It is the first such visit to Washington by an African leader in more than 15 years and comes Russia and China have expanded their influence across the continent.

Several governments in the Sahel region and western Africa have also fallen to military coups, leading to the removal of co-operation missions with western nations.

The extension of major non-Nato ally status will allow Nairobi to engage in closer security cooperation with Washington and obtain more sophisticated US weapons.

Doing so is “a fulfilment of years of collaboration,” Mr Biden said at a joint news conference with Mr Ruto at the White House on Thursday.

Kenya has emerged as an important security partner to the US in East Africa, and is also part of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group coalition, which meets to coordinate on how to arm Kyiv against Moscow.

The strengthening of its US alliance come as Washington faces setbacks in other areas of Africa.

This week the Pentagon confirmed a full withdrawal of around 1,000 troops from Niger by September following the breakdown of security cooperation.

Niger has grown closer to Russia and Iran after its democratically elected president was toppled in a coup last year.

Washington has also been pleased by Kenya’s recent pledge to send 1,000 of its police officers to Haiti.

The only phone call President Biden made to a leader in sub-Saharan Africa last year was to Mr Ruto, about Nairobi’s promise to lead a multinational force to the Caribbean nation.

“Our joint counterterrorism operations have degraded Isis and Al-Shabaab across East Africa,” Mr Biden said.

“Our mutual support for Ukraine has rallied the world to stand behind the UN charter. And our work together on Haiti is helping pave the way to reduce instability and insecurity.”

Mr Ruto said said that “Kenya and Africa have a strong and committed friend” in Mr Biden.

Once approved by the US Congress, Kenya will become the 19th country to be named a major non-Nato ally.

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