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Biden Thanks Ruto for Helping Haiti    05/24 06:32

   President Joe Biden on Thursday expressed deep appreciation to Kenyan 
President William Ruto for the coming deployment of Kenyan police forces to 
help quell gang violence in Haiti and he defended his decision to withhold 
American forces from the mission in the beleaguered Caribbean nation.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday expressed deep 
appreciation to Kenyan President William Ruto for the coming deployment of 
Kenyan police forces to help quell gang violence in Haiti and he defended his 
decision to withhold American forces from the mission in the beleaguered 
Caribbean nation.

   The United States has agreed to contribute $300 million to a multinational 
force that will include 1,000 Kenyan police officers, but Biden argued that an 
American troop presence in Haiti would raise "all kinds of questions that can 
easily be misrepresented."

   The Democrat came into office in 2021 pledging to end U.S. involvement in 
so-called endless wars in the aftermath of 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan 
and Iraq.

   "Haiti is in an area of the Caribbean that is a very volatile," Biden said 
at a news conference with Ruto, who was in Washington for the first state visit 
to the U.S. by an African leader since 2008. "There's a lot going on in this 
hemisphere. So we're in a situation where we want to do all we can without us 
looking like America once again is stepping over and deciding this is what must 
be done."

   Ruto, who was honored by Biden with a fancy state dinner on the White House 
grounds in the evening, also gave a climate policy address and met with former 
President Barack Obama.

   Ruto is facing legal challenges in Nairobi over the decision to commit 
Kenyan forces to a conflict thousands of miles from home when his own country 
has no shortage of economic and security challenges. He said that Kenya, as a 
democracy, has a duty to help.

   "Kenya believes that the responsibility of peace and security anywhere in 
the world, including in Haiti, is the collective responsibility of all nations 
and all people who believe in freedom, self-determination, democracy and 
justice," Ruto said. "And it is the reason why Kenya took up this 
responsibility."

   Some analysts say his move could run afoul of a Kenyan High Court ruling in 
January that found the deployment unconstitutional because of a lack of 
reciprocal agreements between Kenya and Haiti. A deal was signed in March, 
before Ariel Henry resigned as Haiti's prime minister, to try to salvage the 
plan.

   Kenya's moving ahead "gives the impression that the country is lawless and 
does not believe in the rule of law," said Macharia Munene, an international 
relations professor at United States International University-Africa.

   A difficult assignment is ahead for the Kenyan officers.

   Haiti has endured poverty, political instability and natural disasters for 
decades. International intervention in Haiti has a complicated history. A 
U.N.-approved stabilization mission to Haiti that started in June 2004 was 
marred by a sexual abuse scandal and the introduction of cholera, which killed 
nearly 10,000 people. The mission ended in October 2017.

   Biden and Ruto also called on economies around the globe to take action to 
reduce the enormous debt burden crushing Kenya and other developing nations.

   The call to action, termed the Nairobi-Washington Vision, comes as Biden 
presses his appeal to African nations that the U.S. can be a better partner 
than economic rival China. Beijing has been deepening its investment on the 
continent -- often with high-interest loans and other difficult financing terms.

   Biden and Ruto want creditor nations to reduce financing barriers for 
developing nations that have been constrained by high debt burdens. They also 
called on international financial institutions to coordinate debt relief and 
support through multilateral banks and institutions providing better financing 
terms.

   The White House announced $250 million in grants for the International 
Development Association, part of the World Bank, to assist poor countries 
facing crises.

   Separately, a $1.2 trillion government funding bill passed by Congress in 
March allows the U.S. to lend up to $21 billion to an International Monetary 
Fund trust that provides zero-interest loans to support low-income countries.

   "Too many nations are forced to make a choice between development and debt, 
between investing in their people and paying back their creditors," Biden said.

   An Associated Press analysis of a dozen countries most indebted to China -- 
including Kenya -- found the debt is consuming an ever-greater amount of tax 
revenue needed to keep schools open, provide electricity and pay for food and 
fuel.

   Behind the scenes is China's reluctance to forgive debt and its extreme 
secrecy about how much money it has loaned and on what terms, which has kept 
other major lenders from stepping in to help.

   Kenya's debt-to-GDP ratio tops 70%, with the bulk of it owed to China. 
Credit ratings agency Fitch estimates the Kenya will spend almost one-third of 
its government revenues just on interest payments this year.

   The Biden administration has praised Kenya for stepping up in Haiti when so 
few other countries have agreed to do so. Biden also announced his intention to 
designate Kenya as a major non-NATO ally, an acknowledgment of the growing 
security partnership between the countries.

   The designation, while largely symbolic, reflects how Kenya has grown from a 
regional partner that has long cooperated with U.S. counterterrorism operations 
on the continent to a major global influence -- even extending its reach into 
the Western Hemisphere. Kenya will be the first sub-Saharan African country to 
receive the status.

   Ruto arrived in Washington on Wednesday and began the visit by meeting with 
Biden and tech executives from Silicon Valley and Kenya's growing tech sector.

   The White House announced it was working with Congress to make Kenya the 
first country in Africa to benefit from funding through the CHIPS and Science 
Act, a 2022 law that aims to reinvigorate the computer chip sector within the 
United States through tens of billions of dollars in targeted government 
support.

   "I think we have a historic moment to explore investment opportunities 
between Kenya and the United States," Ruto said.

   Despite the optimistic outlook, Kenya has seen a sharp decline in foreign 
investment since 2017. Net investment for foreign companies has fallen from 
$1.35 billion in 2017 to $394 million in 2022, according to the World Bank.

 
 
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