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Kenya: U.S. Senator Calls on Biden to Discuss ‘Deep Government Corruption’ With Kenyatta

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A US senator is calling on President Joe Biden to prioritise the fight against corruption, political violence and rising debt ahead of his meeting with Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta.

Idaho’s Republican Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday the meeting should focus on endemic problems Kenya is facing, as well as security concerns in neighbouring Ethiopia.

Risch said that Kenya, as a strategic partner in East Africa, should be supported to enhance regional security, especially in the fight against terrorism.

“I remain concerned, however, about deep government corruption, ongoing incidents of intercommunal violence in several parts of the country, and increasing debt to China,” he said.

“Kenya is also preparing for a contentious election with a potentially violent ethnic dimension in 2022.”

President Biden is expected to host President Kenyatta at the White House on Thursday, a first meeting for the US leader with an African head of state since he took power in January this year.

Bilateral ties

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the US leader will host the Kenyan counterpart at the White House in Washington to discuss issues around bilateral ties.

“The leaders will discuss the strong US-Kenyan bilateral relationship and the need to bring transparency and accountability to domestic and international financial systems,” she said in a statement.

“They will also discuss efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth, and tackle climate change.”

The meeting comes as Kenya presides over the UN Security Council for the month of October. But it also comes as Kenya faces violence in Laikipia that police say is fuelled by bandits. Kenya is also preparing for a General Election next year, with uncertainties surrounding the security situation after the vote. The previous two General Elections were followed by sporadic incidents of violence.

Kenya today, heavily indebted to China, is also ranked poorly on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Ahead of the meeting, President Kenyatta’s family has also come under sharp focus for stashing cash abroad.

Name not there

On Tuesday, though, on the side-lines of the UN Security Council meeting, President Kenyatta indicated that the revelations did not mention his name in particular nor imply a criminal motive.