Biden pledges to aid Kenya’s terrorism fight
Kenya’s significance to the United States of America was buttressed on Monday night when President elect Joe Biden called President Uhuru Kenyatta and discussed regional security and instability.
The two leaders are also said to have discussed the fight against terrorism in the Horn of Africa, with Biden promising to offer Kenya “adequate support” towards the cause.
Biden also promised to collaborate with Kenya in tackling some of the major challenges facing the world such as climate change.
“The president-elect offered his gratitude for President Kenyatta’s congratulations and expressed his appreciation for the strong and lasting ties between our two countries,” the Biden transition team said in a statement.
In their thirty-minute call, the two leaders discussed how they would cooperate to tackle the thorny issue of climate change that the previous US administration had downplayed.
Also, in the list of ‘must-do’ once he assumes office on January 20, 2021 after taking the oath of office, Biden said he will help Kenya to continue supporting refugees as well as their host communities.
Kenya hosts thousands of refugees from South Sudan and Somalia that have been in political turmoil for decades.
Uhuru became the second African head of state to have been phoned by Biden after South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa signifying the role that Kenya is likely to play during his tenure in office.
Political analysts were quick to say the call from Biden is a clear indication he, unlike his predecessor Donald Trump, is likely to treat trade deals with Kenya as a priority.
“By calling President Uhuru for a discussion, that shows that Biden has recognised Kenya’s significance role in the fight against terrorism as well as role in the stability and trade in the East African region,” Dr Oscar Otele, a lecturer at University of Nairobi’s Political Science and International Relations department told the People Daily.
Dr Otele said Biden appears to be determined to shift from Trump’s policy of countering China’s growing influence in Africa through piecemeal cooperation and bi-partisan trade deals.
“Trump has never personally considered Africa a priority region or even travelled to any country in sub-Sahara. In fact, though Trump pushed for significant cuts to foreign aid into the continent, these were largely vetoed by the Congress, meaning the US remained a leading donor in Africa,” Dr Otele argued.
The political scientist said the election of Biden could finally cool trade tensions with China, which could have a positive impact on African markets, like Kenya that trade extensively with Beijing.
Dr Otele also says Biden may have identified Kenya as a strategic partner in the fight against terrorism due to her efforts in Somalia, where the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have been fighting the al-Shabaab.
The US through the Stuttgart-based United States Africa Command is involved in facilitating assignments in the ongoing peace mission in Somalia.
“Biden’s telephone call therefore reinforces the believe that US sees terrorism as a threat to global peace and stability.
It is in this regard that the US President-elect sees Kenya as an important player that needs to be strengthened and supported,” Dr Otele says.
The president-elect is said to have offered his appreciation for President Kenyatta’s congratulatory message over his election.
In the November 8 message, President Kenyatta termed Biden’s win as a demonstration of Americans’ confidence in his leadership credentials.
“Americans have spoken loudly and clearly through their votes by picking a highly experienced, colourfully decorated and long-serving leader to become their next Head of State.
On behalf of the people and the Government of the Republic of Kenya, I congratulate president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris for their emphatic win and wish them all the best as they prepare to lead the United States of America into a future of prosperity,” the Kenyan President had then stated.
President Uhuru termed Biden as a friend of Kenya whose last visit to the country, while serving as vice-president under former US President Barack Obama, helped renew the Kenya-US ties.
Another Kenyan scholar, Prof Macharia Munene of the United States International University (USIU)-Africa says Kenya is an integral global player, more so in ensuring peace in the region due to her strategic position and stability.
“A return to multilateralism under a Biden presidency could translate into stronger US backing for the African Continental Free Trade Area, rather than the Trump administration’s approach of pursuing bilateral deals with Kenya,” Prof Munene said.
Prof Munene also opines that a Biden administration is likely to support the extension of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) beyond 2025.