6 August 2018

Kenya: Uhuru Set to Visit U.S. After Trump Sends Him Invitation

Photo: Le Pays
Uhuru Kenyatta.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has been invited for a historic visit to the US for a meeting with President Donald Trump as he continues to cement his relationship with the West that was hurt by his case at the International Criminal Court.

State House Monday announced that the Head of State had been invited by Mr Trump for the official visit set for August 26.

Spokeswoman Kanze Dena said: "The two leaders will discuss good bilateral relationships between the two countries and plans to boost among other sectors, security, trade and investment."

Addressing journalists at State House, Mombasa, Ms Dena hailed the invite and praised Kenya's role in the signing of a peace agreement between South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his arch-rival Riek Machar.

CONFIRMED

A statement from the White House also confirmed President Kenyatta's visit saying "Kenya is a vital partner of the United States, and President Trump looks forward to discussing ways to broaden the strategic partnership based on our shared democratic values and mutual interests."

"The meeting between the two leaders will reaffirm the long-standing relationship between the US and Kenya as a cornerstone of peace and stability in Africa and the broader Indo-Pacific region," the statement said.

It added: "President Trump and President Kenyatta will explore ways to bolster trade and investment between the two countries, while strengthening security cooperation."

US LOAN

The visit comes as the National Treasury is considering a Sh300 billion loan from the US to finance the construction of a six-lane expressway to link Mombasa and Nairobi whose viability has been questioned in some quarters.

The road is to be done by American construction giant Bechtel.

Asked later if the road will be part of President Kenyatta and Mr Trump's discussion, Ms Dena said the issue will unlikely feature as plans for the road were still on.

"The visit is official and will mainly focus on trade, security and peace," Ms Dena said.

Kenya also plans to start direct flights from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to New York in October.

TRADE BENEFITS

Kenya enjoys preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). US exports to Kenya include agricultural products, aircraft parts and machinery. US imports include apparel, coffee, and tea.

The US business investment is primarily in services, information technology, and tourism.

In January last year, Kenya's Deputy Head of Mission in Washington, Mr David Gacheru, told the Nation that Kenya's view on President Trump would be to wait and see how he relates with the country.

Mr Gacheru was the highest ranking diplomat representing the country during Mr Trump's inauguration last year.

'AMERICA FIRST'

"Time will tell. We should wait for at least the first 100 days to see what happens," he told the Nation then referring to President Trump's 'America-first' speech.

The diplomat admitted Kenya's relationship with the US would be "different" but hoped President Trump "will get the opportunity to share our values and that we will be able to communicate to him the accomplishments of our country."

It took more than two months before Trump made a direct phone call to State House. But it was only after he had spoken to President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, and Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt. Critics labelled Kenyan officials of "failing" the country's diplomacy.

Mr Trump would send other top ranking officials to Kenya but mostly around elections, but then nearly ruined relations with Africa with his 'shit-hole' comment. Still, Nairobi only came out later to say it sided with the AU in expressing dismay with the US leader's view.

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