News / Africa

US Vice President Biden Visiting Kenya

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is to discuss security issues and bilateral relations during a three-day visit to Kenya.  The Kenya visit is the second-leg of Biden's three-stop African tour. 

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is visiting at a time the strength of the U.S.-Kenya partnership is finding itself under increasing scrutiny.

Washington has been one of the foremost voices in urging Kenya to implement key political reforms promised after the country's 2008 post-election violence.

Vice President Biden is expected to speak at length with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the progress of the country's proposed new constitution.  Washington has urged Kenyans to participate in the forthcoming referendum on the document.

Experts say certain Kenyan politicians are unhappy at the amount of pressure Washington has placed on the government to deliver reforms.

Speaking to VOA, Nairobi political analyst Harun Ndubi says Mr. Biden's visit is a sign the White House believes at least some progress has been made.

"It has not quite an approval of the delivery on the new constitution, but its kind of a friendly nudge that we are making steps in the right direction in terms of the delivery of various items, and the constitution particularly," said Ndubi.

Political and economic reforms were part of the agreement signed by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga, which brought an end to the post election violence that killed more than 1,000 people following the 2007 presidential poll.

Ndubi says the apparent strain on political ties with Washington has the potential to push Kenya to seek closer relations with other countries.  By increasing commerce with China and other eastern states, analysts says Kenya could be reacting to political pressure from its ally.  Biden's visit, Ndubi says, could be a way of reassuring Kenyan leaders of America's support.

"The other day our president went to China and came back with $36 million [three billion shillings], if Kenya was left to feel like the relationship [with America] is so bad that even our own son cannot have a close relationship with us, we might look for new friends," he said.  "And that is why Biden's visit to Kenya might just be a reassurance that America is not disregarding Kenya irrespective of the delivery of the reform agenda," said Ndubi.

Kenya is a strategically important Western ally viewed as a nation of relative stability in the midst of increasingly troubled neighbors.  The Kenyan government is expected to seek more engagement with the United States on tackling the multitude of problems presented by neighboring Somalia.

Kenya says al-Shabab, the most powerful of the hard-line Islamic groups operating in Somalia, should not be given further opportunities to influence Muslim populations in Kenya and other parts of East Africa.

Kenya is one of two countries prosecuting pirates that operate off the coast of Somalia and further into the Indian Ocean.  Despite reassurances from the the European Union it would receive more international help in dealing with pirates, Nairobi is expected to ask Biden for further cooperation from the United States.

U.S. President Barack Obama says he plans to make his first official visit to Kenya, the country that sees him as a son, before his term ends.  Analysts say Biden's visit is a sign of the president's continuing commitment to the East African country, but that Mr. Obama wants to see the constitutional reform process completed before he visits.

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