Biden, Ruto to discuss Kenyan debt relief this week

Kenya's President William Ruto
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United States President Joe Biden will play host this week to Kenyan President William Ruto for wide-ranging talks expected to include debt relief for Kenya as well as the way forward for Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan and other areas.
Kenya has been grappling with acute liquidity challenges, and a senior administration official told Reuters on Monday that the US is urging big creditor countries like China, Kenya’s biggest creditor, to offer debtor countries relief.
“We think it’s essential that responsible debtors provide reprieves for countries like Kenya, whether that’s by debt service suspensions or via new grant assistance,” the official said.
Washington is also urging international financial institutions to offer low-cost financing to Kenya and other countries.
The official said to expect some significant joint announcements about debt relief during the state visit this week “on how countries like Kenya can tackle this problem of debt.”
One of Washington’s objectives in scheduling a high-profile visit by the Kenyan leader is countering China’s rising influence in Africa.
US Treasury Undersecretary Jay Shambaugh last month warned China and other countries that have lent extensively to low-income countries against free-riding by collecting debt service payments and curtailing follow-on loans.
The comments reflected growing frustration among Western countries and debtor nations about Beijing’s foot-dragging on debt restructuring efforts and the slow pace of debt relief deals.
Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, an interfaith alliance of religious, development and advocacy organizations, said the Ruto visit would send important signals about US policy toward the African continent.
“When Ruto speaks, he’s really speaking for Africa. And given that President Biden hasn’t had the chance to visit Africa yet, this meeting is not only about Kenya, it’s really about sub-Saharan Africa as a whole,” LeCompte said.
At a meeting Ruto hosted last month, African leaders called for rich countries to commit record contributions to the World Bank’s International Development Association, a low-interest facility that developing nations rely on to help fund their development and combat climate change.
The official said Biden and Ruto will also discuss security cooperation as the U.S.-Kenyan relationship expands from regional efforts to more of a global partnership.
They will discuss Haiti, Ukraine, Sudan and other global hotspots, the official said.
Kenya had reached an agreement with Haiti to fast-track a deployment of police officers to tackle spiraling violence in the Caribbean nation but did an abrupt about-face in mid-March, saying it was pausing the deployment.
Biden and Ruto are expected to hold a joint news conference after their talks on Thursday and then attend a state dinner.