U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Kenya Wednesday to discuss “the partnership” between the two countries and to address regional issues such as ending the violence in Ethiopia, combating terrorism in Somalia and reviving Sudan’s transition to a civilian government, the State Department said Tuesday.
His visit will likely seek to underscore the difference between President Joe Biden’s administration and his predecessor Donald Trump. Trump dismissed some African nations as “shitholes” , left key diplomatic posts to Africa empty and scoffed at climate change science.
Kenya, a member of the United Nations Security Council, is an important player in Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia.
The State Department said Blinken will meet with President Uhuru Kenyatta and Foreign Affairs Ambassador Raychelle Omamo to discuss the partnerships between their governments with respect to “ending the COVID pandemic and investing in health, addressing the climate crisis, building a more inclusive global economy, and strengthening democracy and respect for human rights.”
The agency said the U.S. and Kenya are also “working together to address regional priorities, particularly ending the crisis in Ethiopia, fighting terrorism in Somalia, and restoring the civilian-led transition in Sudan.”
Blinken’s upcoming visit to Kenya is part of a three-nation tour to Africa that also includes trips to Nigeria and Senegal. His trip is partially aimed at raising America’s profile as a key player in the region as it competes with China.
Despite its large contributions of money and vaccines to contain the coronavirus and other infectious diseases, the U.S. has had little success in gaining influence in the region.
U.S. Security Cooperation with Kenya
• In FY 2020, U.S. peace and security assistance totaled over $560 million. Kenya has purchased over $139 million worth of U.S.-made military equipment over the past three years, making Kenya a key strategic military partner. The U.S. partnership with the Kenya Defense Force includes assistance related to counterterrorism, border security, aviation security, maritime security (including to the newly established Kenyan Coast Guard), peacekeeping support, and broader professionalization efforts.
• The United States supports Kenyan law enforcement to promote police accountability and reform and support anti-corruption efforts within Kenyan institutions. Other programs include support to counter violent extremism, security initiatives to build the capacity of civil society organizations, and justice sector reform.
• As of 2021, the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism has 14 active projects funded at $69 million over five years aimed at enhancing the counterterrorism capacity of Kenya’s civilian law enforcement in areas such as crisis response, investigations, border security, aviation security, and countering violent extremism. The Department of Defense provided $24 million in assistance focused on building Kenya’s defense institutions, enhancing military sales, and counterterrorism operations. Since 2017, the United States has provided $19 million in counterterrorism assistance to Kenya. Additionally in the last three years, the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has provided approximately $7.6 million annually to promote police accountability and reform and support anti-corruption efforts within Kenyan institutions.
• The United States and Kenya established diplomatic relations in 1964. Our bilateral engagement has expanded greatly since Kenya returned to multiparty democracy in 1992.
• The United States and Kenya elevated our relationship to a strategic partnership in 2018 and held our first Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in Washington, DC in 2019. The BSD is built on five pillars that underscore the breadth of our mutual interests across the areas of: economic prosperity, defense, democracy and civilian security, multilateral and regional issues, and public health.
• The United States provided over $560 million in bilateral assistance to Kenya in FY 2020. This assistance supported integrated programming across our pillars of partnership. In addition, the United States also provided nearly $98 million in humanitarian assistance in FY 2021.