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Biden Plans to Give Kenya Key Ally Designation During Its Leader’s Visit

President Biden will designate Kenya on Thursday as a “major non-NATO ally,” according to a U.S. official, a move that reflects the president’s determination to deepen relations with the East African nation even as other countries — including Russia and China — are racing to do the same.

Mr. Biden will inform Congress of his intention, as required by law, as he hosts President William Ruto of Kenya with a formal state dinner at the White House on Thursday, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to allow Mr. Biden to make the announcement. The designation is given to countries whose militaries have a strategic working relationship with the United States, though not necessarily a mutual defense pact. Kenya would be the first sub-Saharan African country to be so designated.

The diplomatic move, and the daylong celebration of the U.S.-Kenyan relationship, is meant to underscore Mr. Biden’s commitment to Africa despite having failed to make good on a promise to travel personally to the continent by the end of this year.

As he greeted Mr. Ruto upon his arrival in Washington on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Biden officially reneged on that promise, telling him that he intended to visit the continent “in February, after I am re-elected.” For months, Mr. Biden’s aides had ducked questions about whether he would travel to Africa during a busy election year.

Mr. Biden plans to use the visit to express gratitude to Mr. Ruto for agreeing to lead a multinational security force to help stabilize Haiti, where gangs continue to terrorize the island’s citizens following the assassination of the country’s president in 2021.

But the American president and his advisers are also eager to demonstrate that he remains focused on the importance of building ties with Kenya and other nations in Africa, hoping to win what has become an increasingly intense competition with China and Russia to secure trade and other victories with the resource-rich countries.

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