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Kenyan President’s State Visit: An Antidote to U.S. Troubles in Africa?

As other African nations move away from the United States, disillusioned with democracy or lured by rival powers, President William Ruto of Kenya arrives in Washington on Wednesday for a three-day state visit intended to showcase a stalwart American ally on the continent.

A spate of military coups, shaky elections and raging wars have upended Africa’s political landscape in the past year, giving an edge to American rivals like Russia and China, but also shredding Washington’s key selling point: that democracy delivers.

In Niger, a recently installed military junta has asked American troops to leave. Relations with once-firm American allies like South Africa and Ethiopia are decidedly cool. A recent election in Senegal, long considered a beacon of stability, nearly went off the rails.

Mr. Ruto, the Biden administration hopes, is the antidote to those troubles.

Since he came to power two years ago, Mr. Ruto, 57, has pulled Kenya, the economic powerhouse of East Africa, ever closer to the United States. His visit is just the sixth state visit hosted by the Biden administration, and the first for an African president since 2008.

In some respects, President Biden is atoning for a broken promise. At a high profile Africa summit in Washington in December 2022, Mr. Biden declared he was “all in” on Africa, and pledged to make a visit to the continent in the following year. The trip never materialized.

In choosing Mr. Ruto, the Biden administration is confirming that it views the Kenyan leader as one of its closest security, diplomatic and economic partners in Africa.

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