Biden meets President of Kenya amid Ethiopia crisis

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Thursday announced the donation of millions of coronavirus vaccines to a group of African countries duri...


WASHINGTON – President Biden on Thursday announced the donation of millions of coronavirus vaccines to a group of African countries during a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who is grappling with the pandemic and an ongoing humanitarian disaster in Neighboring Ethiopia.

The Biden administration’s donation of 17 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the African Union came a month after Mr Kenyatta publicly advocated for a more equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. TO United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, the Kenyan president criticized the “asymmetry” of vaccine supply, a clear reference to countries like the United States which are give booster shots instead of giving more vaccines to the nations in need.

During Mr Biden’s first in-person meeting at the White House with a leader of an African country, Mr Kenyatta thanked him for the donation while suggesting that it was not enough.

“As a continent, we are far behind the rest of the world in being able to immunize our people,” Kenyatta said.

Mr Biden has pledged to send more vaccines to Kenya by the end of the year.

“We are continuing our common fight against Covid,” he said before reporters left the Oval Office. “We will discuss what more the United States can do together in the Horn of Africa to advance peace and security.”

The meeting came at a crucial time for Kenya, which is grappling with a latent feud with Somalia over its maritime border, a fragile peace in South Sudan and the diplomatic challenge of avoiding an acceleration of civil war and famine in the Tigray region from northern Ethiopia.

In Mr. Kenyatta, the current president of the United Nations Security Council, the Biden administration sees a partner in efforts to curb the continuing violence in Ethiopia, as well as threats from Al Shabab in Somalia.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Kenyatta were due to discuss the situation in the Tigray region, where some fighters have been accused of atrocities against civilians, including sexual violence, massacres and ethnic cleansing. Ethiopia last month expelled several senior UN officials amid accusations the country was blocking aid deliveries to the region, even as at least five million people need help during a catastrophic famine.

The decision to expel UN officials was also seen as a rebuke to Mr Biden, who threatened last month to publish radical sanctions against the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray and the Amhara Regional Government, to stop the escalation of violence. But the administration has yet to apply financial sanctions against a strategic ally.

It remains unclear to what extent the United States, directly or through Kenya, will work to prevent widespread sexual violence during the civil war or to help the hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans living in conditions close to the famine. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, did not provide an updated timetable for the sanctions when asked on Thursday.

“Obviously, what’s going on in Ethiopia – it’s an atrocity,” she said. “It’s horrible.”

Mr. Biden and Mr. Kenyatta also spoke about the economy, climate change and “strengthening financial transparency,” Biden said at the start of their discussion.

“You mentioned it, Mr. President,” he told Mr. Kenyatta. “I want to talk to you about it. “

The discussion about finances was most likely tense after the release this month of the Pandora Papers Report, a collaboration of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and news media partners including The Washington Post and The Guardian, which exposed information on how the offshore financial services industry has helped the wealthy hide their active. Mr Kenyatta, who campaigned on pledges to reduce corruption, was among more than 330 current and former politicians included in the report as benefitting from offshore companies and foundations managing his assets.

Ms Psaki had previously called Mr Biden’s meeting with Mr Kenyatta necessary, adding that she did not think the president would “hold back”.

“We have a range of interests in working with Kenya and working with them on issues in Africa, in the region, and that will be the main focus of the meeting,” she said.

For Mr. Kenyatta, the meeting was an opportunity to strengthen relations with the United States as his country suffers from the economic turmoil of the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya is also deeply in debt after borrowing heavily from China to pursue large infrastructure projects. Mr. Biden tried to do counter the growing economic influence of China a central point of its national security strategy.

Tensions are mounting between Kenya and another neighbor, Somalia, after the United Nations Supreme Court sided with Somalia in a dispute over how to demarcate an area of ​​the Indian Ocean considered to be rich in oil and gas. The decision has heightened uncertainty in the Horn of Africa.

“Kenya’s neighborhood is getting harder and harder,” said Michelle D. Gavin, senior member of the Council on Foreign Relations and former US Ambassador to Botswana. “He must be able not only to weather the storm in terms of his own security concerns, but also to be a kind of regional leader.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden meets President of Kenya amid Ethiopia crisis
Biden meets President of Kenya amid Ethiopia crisis
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